The process and procedure for investigations undertaken by SafeWork NSW is now clearly outlined in a new service standard released this month. The standard is similar to the approach adopted by most safety regulators around Australia.
Safety regulators commonly undertake investigations in response to workplace incidents that result in the serious or fatal injury of workers, but may also investigate dangerous occurrences, serious safety risks or work-related illnesses.
The new service standards set out the process of the investigation, timing and general information regarding considerations that SafeWork NSW will take into account in deciding whether any enforcement action should be taken. It provides useful guidance to risk managers and legal teams, in terms of what to expect after a notification to SafeWork of a serious incident.
In summary, the standard provides that after an initial notification:
- the safety regulator will take steps to manage the immediate risks at site;
- after collecting key information relating to the incident, a decision will be made whether to elevate the matter to a formal investigation – in the case of fatality, the Coroner may be involved;
- if a formal investigation is undertaken, evidence is gathered by interviews, notices for production and obtaining expert advice (this process may take up to 2 years to complete); and
- a legal review is undertaken to determine if enforcement action should be taken, considering the prosecution guidelines to determine if it is in the public interest to commence prosecutions.
The standard also provides an outline of the considerations for an enforceable undertaking in substitution for a prosecution.
Click here for a copy of the new standard.