Workplace Safety: Employee Injury and Accident Claims

A recent finding has suggested that a company’s value can be directly tied to the health of the workforce and that by investing in employees, including workplace safety programs, costs will decrease. But what does this mean exactly?

Put simply it means that the safer an employee feels at work the happier they will be, which leads to less accidents and less costs. Research has consistently shown a link between a worker’s feelings of safety and security in the workplace and morale.

Things such as improving communication about workplace safety and providing employees with the safety tools they need to perform their work, sends a strong message about employer commitment.

However boosting morale goes above just complying with regulations.

Companies that focus beyond compliance tend to have employees with high levels of morale . In addition to boosting morale safety plays an essential role in the workplace.

In this article we look at why workplace safety is important, how to report an incident, and what avenues an injured employee may have available to them to claim for an injury.

Workplace safety is an issue of critical importance for all Australian workers. Each year more than 220 Australians die as a result of work related injuries and over 134,000 are seriously injured.

If a safety incident occurs at your workplace you should report this immediately to your employer. In addition to this certain incidents are reportable to Workplace Health and Safety Queensland by your employer.

An incident is notifiable if it arises out of the conduct of a business or undertaking and results in the death, serious injury or serious illness of a person or involves a dangerous incident.

So what sorts of things does this include?

The Workplace Health and Safety Act 2011 and the Safety in Recreational Water Activities Act 2011 state:

A serious injury is an injury that requires the person to have:

Immediate treatment as an inpatient in a hospital, including immediate treatment for:

  • The amputation of any part of his or her body;
  • A serious head injury;
  • A serious eye injury;
  • A serious burn;
  • The separation of his or her skin from an underlying tissue;
  • A spinal injury;
  • The loss of a bodily function;
  • Serious lacerations;
  • Medical treatment within 48 hours of exposure to a substance.

A serious infection, which includes any infection that is reliably attributable to carrying out work:

  • With micro-organisms;
  • That involves providing treatment or care to a person;
  • That involves contact with human blood or body substances;

Including those which involve handling or contact with animals, animal hides, skins, wool or hair, animal carcasses or animal waste products, including:

  • Q fever;
  • Anthrax;
  • Leptospirosis;
  • Brucellosis;
  • Hendra virus;
  • Avian influenza;
  • Psittacosis.

A dangerous incident includes an incident that exposes a worker to a serious risk to their health or safety emanating from an exposure to:

  • An uncontrolled escape, spillage, or leakage of a substance;
  • An uncontrolled implosion, explosion or fire;
  • An uncontrolled escape of gas or steam;
  • An uncontrolled escape of a pressurised substance;
  • Electric shock;
  • The fall or release from height any plant, substance or thing;
  • The collapse, overturning, failure or malfunction of, or damage to, any plant that is required to be authorised for use in accordance with the regulations;
  • The collapse or partial collapse of a structure;
  • The collapse or failure of an excavation;
  • The inrush of water, mud or gas in workings, in an underground excavation or tunnel;
  • The interruption of the main system of ventilation in an underground excavation or tunnel.

Safety should be the number one priority of any workplace. Your employer has a duty to ensure your health and safety at work.

Therefore your employer should be aware of tasks that pose a risk to your safety and should have implemented workplace safety practices to reduce your exposure to the risk of injury.

If an employer fails to implement such practices and an employee is injured as a result then they may be liable in negligence. An injured worker in this situation is likely to succeed in a common law claim for damages against their employer.

Regardless of whether or not a common law for damages exists an injured worker is entitled to receive workers compensation benefits from WorkCover Queensland for their injury (providing they are classified as a “worker” and the personal injury they have suffered arose out of, or in the course of their employment). These benefits can include payment of lost wages and medical expenses.

The impact of not taking action to implement safe practices and install safety equipment can be severe. All incidents whereby an employee is injured should be reported to the employer and, depending on the severity of the injury or incident, it may also have to be reported to Workplace Health and Safety Queensland.

Workplace safety practices and providing employees with the tools they need to stay safe should go without saying for any employer, and the boost in employee morale that has been reported to flow from this is really just an added bonus for employers.

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