Incident management, which includes the reporting and investigation of workplace incidents, is a critical component of an effective health and safety management system. Unfortunately, many companies do not actively manage this and accordingly the same or similar incidents keep repeating themselves. Further to this, often companies are not compliant with legislation as the Occupational Health & Safety Act “OHS Act” is very specific when it comes to the reporting of incidents to the Department of Employment & Labour “DEL”.
Section 24 of the OHS Act states that an incident needs to reported to the DEL when any person dies, becomes unconscious, suffers the loss of a limb or part of a limb or is otherwise injured or becomes ill to such a degree that he is likely either to die or to suffer a permanent physical defect or likely to be unable, for a period of at least 14 days, either to work or to continue with the activity for which he was employed, or is usually employed. Along with these, there are several other incidents, that, if they occur, also need to be reported to the DEL.
Depending on the severity of the incident, an inspector from the DEL may investigate the circumstances behind the incident. If an inspector does arrive on your site, you will be required to demonstrate that you have met your legal obligations in terms of the reporting of the incident and that your operations are legally compliant in terms of the OHS Act and Regulations. If this is not the case, then the company and / or the CEO can be exposed from a liability perspective.
As part of the incident investigation process, it is important to identify the root cause of the incident. The investigation process may include extensive interviews with employees, chemical tests, analysis of check sheets, registers, and service records. Once this process is complete and the root causes established, then the risk assessments should be updated, with a detailed review of the control measures to reduce the likelihood of another incident.
Workplace accidents are a valuable source of information and if managed correctly can mitigate risk and reduce the number of costly incidents. Further to this, incident tracking and reporting allows an organisation to generate trend analysis around incidents, such as the day of the week most incidents take place or what part of the body is most effected. This will also allow for the tracking and reporting of incident costs. In 2016, 313 million workplace accidents were recorded, with approximately 2.3 million of those cases resulting in someone losing their life. A proactive approach to managing workplace incidents, which includes investigating every accident and creating a culture of near miss reporting, enables a framework of continuous improvement and a reduction in incidents over time.
It is therefore vital that you ensure that all incidents and accident are communicated to your LabourNet Health & Safety Consultant as soon as possible, to ensure that the legally required investigation and subsequent documentation may be completed. Further to this, so that the root cause may be established, ensuring that that preventative measures are identified to avoid, as much as possible, any reoccurrences, regardless of how serious it is.
- Morne’ Oosthuizen, LabourNet, Port Elizabeth
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