Criteria for investigation

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Consistent with the principles of proportionality and responsiveness, resources available for investigation of incidents are devoted to the most serious cases.

WorkSafe investigations are undertaken for a range of reasons, which include:

  • determining the causes of an incident
  • assessing compliance with WHS laws
  • determining what action may be appropriate to enforce compliance with WHS laws.

The scope and scale of an investigation varies depending upon the nature of the issue and the compliance tools being used or considered. Investigations will generally involve:

  • collection, recording and examination of all relevant evidence from the incident scene
  • where appropriate seizure of evidence held by external agencies, for example, WAPOL
  • where appropriate engagement of expert evidence
  • collection and examination of documentary evidence, including electronic records
  • interview of witnesses with evidence relevant to the incident
  • interview of relevant PCBUs or their representatives.

Matters for investigation

In line with the regulator’s role and functions, WorkSafe investigates incidents when information suggests a potential breach of the WHS Act may have occurred and:

  • a person receives a serious injury or illness at (or from) a workplace
  • a person receives fatal injury at a workplace
  • the regulator, in contemplation of the circumstances of an incident, may consider prosecution of a potential duty holder is warranted in response to the occurrence of a ‘dangerous incident’.

The primary purpose of these investigations is to identify:

  • whether evidence establishes a prima facie case and that the public interest may be served by initiating enforcement action
  • causal variables of the incident which may be used to inform and/or assist industry avoid repetition or reoccurrence of incidents causing, or potentially causing, serious injury, illness or death.

It is not possible for the regulator to investigate all issues of non-compliance with the WHS laws that are uncovered in the course of an inspection or in response to a complaint.

Priority matters for investigations include:

  • work-related fatalities and serious injuries, or where there is a risk of such outcomes
  • non-compliance with inspectors’ notices or directions
  • offences against inspectors
  • offences against health and safety representatives and matters relating to entry permit holders
  • discrimination against workers on the basis of their work health and safety activities
  • serious psychosocial incidents
  • sexual harassment and assault
  • failure to notify occurrence of incidents
  • where an incident or matter is a serious risk to a person’s health or safety.

In determining which complaints or reports of incidents, injury or disease to investigate and in deciding the level of resources to be deployed, the regulator will consider the following factors:

  • the severity and scale of potential or actual harm
  • the seriousness of any potential breach of WHS legislation
  • the duty holder’s compliance history, including such matters as prior convictions and notices issued
  • whether the duty holder was licensed or authorised to undertake certain types of work
  • strategic enforcement priorities
  • the practicality of achieving results
  • the wider relevance of the event, including matters of significant community concern.

Serious injury or illness incidents

WorkSafe will investigate incidents occurring at a workplace, involving serious injury or illness to a worker which occurs as a result of exposure to a hazard.

Decisions as to whether investigation into a serious injury or illness event will be conducted is determined by assessment of the WorkSafe triage criteria of:

  • the degree of the immediate injury or illness
  • the anticipated injury/illness outcome and potential degree of any impairment
  • variables that increased the injured worker’s vulnerability, such as age or experience
  • the work health and safety antecedents of the relevant person conducting businesses or undertakings.

Fatality incidents

WorkSafe will investigate notifications of fatality incidents when they occur to a person:

  • at a workplace, whether or not the deceased person is a person working at the time
  • as a consequence of a work activity, whether or not exposure to a hazard occurred on a workplace
  • as a consequence of a motor vehicle crash involving a person who at that time was working.

Suicide events

Generally, WorkSafe will not investigate the specific circumstance of a suicide event on the basis that the Coroner of Western Australian investigates such matters. In some circumstances WorkSafe may conduct investigations into a workplace’s management of psychosocial hazards following notification of a suicide event which may have connection to that workplace.

Investigation of multiple and or concurrent PCBUs

Where multiple or concurrent PCBU’s with duties are identified, WorkSafe will reach separate and individual outcomes in relation to the respective PCBU based on the evidence and facts established in relation to their respective legislative duties. Accordingly, there will be circumstances where WorkSafe reaches different investigative outcomes in relation to PCBUs with duties relevant to a singular incident.

Instances where WorkSafe may not investigate

WorkSafe may not investigate the following:

  • motor vehicle crashes resulting in the injury or death of a worker while travelling to work
  • the death of a worker during the course of medical treatment at a medical facility
  • the death of a worker that is outside WorkSafe’s legislative or territorial jurisdiction.

In some instances, an incident may fall under multiple jurisdictions. As such, WorkSafe may decide not investigate a matter that is under investigation by another agency, such as WAPOL.

WorkSafe may defer investigative action when an external regulator has criminal proceedings relating to an incident which is before an appropriate court.

Further information



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