Reporting notifiable accidents - Hasmate
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Reporting notifiable accidents

Reporting notifiable accidents

OUCH! The recent prosecution of an Auckland kitchen manufacturer for:

  1. Two different workers sustaining injury using the same saw bench;
  2. Not reporting accidents to WorkSafe NZ; and
  3. Not implementing any systems to identify or to manage workplace hazards and risks, even though WorkSafe NZ had issued the company with an improvement notice four months earlier;

resulted in the director being fined $78,000 and reparation payments of $51,000.

Read article here.

What are your obligations to report accidents?

  1. Firstly, understand what constitutes a reportable Notification Event (for a condensed version of Notifiable Events, contact Hasmate to discuss).
  2. Your responsibility is to report all Notifiable Events to WorkSafe NZ – phone 0800 030 040 as soon as you become aware of it.
  3. All accident scenes involving Notifiable Events must be isolated and controlled until clearance has been given by WorkSafe NZ.
  4. When you ring WorkSafe NZ, their representative will ask you for details of the event. From this information, they will decide and inform you if you are required to send them a Notifiable Event Notification Form. This form is available on the WorkSafe NZ website and completed either online (click here for the online version), or downloaded (click here for the downloadable version) and then scanned and emailed to them.
  5. If it’s a serious accident, WorkSafe NZ will notify their local office who will send a warranted inspector to your worksite.

Gathering Evidence

Take photographs of the accident to ensure you gain the maximum affect. Stand in one point and pan your photos. Do not forget to activate the date and time feature on your camera.

WorkSafe NZ Investigation

This will be thorough and you will be required to supply some of the following evidence to prove the company’s due diligence to health and safety management.

  1. The employees and employment agreement;
  2. Employment records;
  3. Induction records;
  4. Hazard register and the risk rating for the hazard;
  5. Any training procedures or Safe Operating Procedures (SOP);
  6. Records of training with signatures and dates of training;
  7. The associated hazard review records;
  8. Health and Safety Meeting records;
  9. 6-12 months maintenance records of the equipment (if any);
  10. Accident/incident register;
  11. Register of corrective and preventive actions taken by the business for other incidents/accidents and more;
  12. Accident/Incident reporting system.

 

Witness Statements

This is an important part of your accident/investigation process. To ensure that this is non-threatening and fair:

  1. Develop a process with a generic set of questions;
  2. Ensure that any witnesses can read and write;
  3. Carry out the witness recording as soon as possible after the accident;
  4. Separate the witnesses so there is no possibility of collusion; and
  5. Ask them to sign and date their statements.

Investigation

Although there is no requirement of the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015 to carry out an accident investigation, it is recommended that you do to identify areas of the business to improve its processes, but more importantly to implement actions to mitigate the risk of the accident from reoccurring.

Your business should have documented procedures and trained personnel to carry out the investigation. It is recommended that a senior manager is involved in the investigation process.

Although a workplace accident is a negative in the scheme of things, always keep an open mind and treat it as an opportunity to improve the business.

When conducting interviews with the injured employee or others involved, always:

  1. Have another manager present at the meeting;
  2. Inform the interviewee that they can bring a support person to the meeting;
  3. Listen and don’t be judgemental. Record all the facts;
  4. Important questions to ask are:
    • How could this have been prevented?
    • What can be done to improve the working situation?
    • What would they do differently?
  5. When you have completed the interview, read out your recorded notes and get them to verify them as correct by getting the signature of the interviewee and their witness on the documented record, as well as your own and your witness.

Note. If you are not prepared to action their concerns or ideas for improvement – don’t ask the questions. It will be the company’s loss if you don’t.

The cost of accidents

This is an important component of accident investigations that is too often overlooked, yet can make the difference in making improvements for the future.

If you are a company or health and safety manager, you will or should be asked the question about the cost of the accident at a future senior management meeting, so be prepared for it. This will be an interesting exercise and I am sure you will be surprised at the true cost.

The reality is that this is a cost that directly impacts the bottom line of the business and could make the difference between a profit or a loss the year’s trading.

Take care of the victim/s

It is important that the business has in place a process to take care of and to communicate with the victims/s, their families and other employees affected by the accident.

What has the business done to assist the victims? This is a question that is often asked and taken into consideration by the courts when imposing prosecution fines.

Conclusion and cost considerations

The kitchen company was fined $78,000 – something they could not insure against. The reparation cost could be covered by reparation insurance cover and the legal fees could be covered by their statutory liability insurance cover, that is, if they had it in place.

To really bring home the need to have proactive health and safety systems in place, let’s consider the true cost of the accident and it consequential financial costs:

Court imposed fines   $78,000
Multiply this x 4 =      $312,000 (this considers all the hidden or peripheral costs.)
Total =                      $390,000.

For the business to recover the $390,000, apply the 30 to 1 rule. What this open rule means, and it will differ due to profit margins of the business, is that for every $1 lost from this accident, the kitchen manufacturer will have to earn an additional $30 over and above all other future work for every $1 lost. ($390,000 x 30 = $11,700,000 – scary stuff when it comes to business survival!)  In effect, the business will be working for nothing for years to come. A sobering thought!

The question is, how well prepared is your business? Could this happen to you and at what cost? If you require assistance, procedures or safe operating procedures to mitigate the risk of an event like this, contact Hasmate today.