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Missing details are no accident

VITAL information on serious workplace accidents could be being missed because of an agreement between two of WA’s peak workplace injury bodies, WorkCover and WorkSafe.

WorkCover receives information from insurers that identifies when serious work-place accidents have occurred.

But it only passes that information on to WorkSafe – the body charged with investigating and enforcing workplace safety – in very broad terms.

There are no specific details, such as when or where the accident occurred.

WorkSafe uses that information for targeted inspections but these inspections are aimed at problem industries – not individual businesses.

It is understood an agreement was struck between the two organisations in 1987 that WorkSafe would not use information gleaned directly from WorkCover to prosecute businesses that failed to report accidents.

It is an offence under the Occupational Health and Safety Act if a business fails to report an accident that results in certain types of injuries or a fatality.

WorkCover executive director Harry Neesham said his organisation wanted to protect the integrity of the data it collected.

It uses that information to set workers’ compensation premiums.

WorkSafe must be notified of injuries such as:

p a fracture of the skull, spine or pelvis;

p a fracture of any bone in the arm other than the wrist or hand, or in the leg other than a bone in the ankle or foot;

p an amputation of an arm, hand, finger, finger joint, leg, foot, toe or toe joint;

p the loss of sight in an eye; or

p any other injury that, in the opinion of a medical practitioner, will prevent the employee from being able to work within 10 days of the day on which the injury occurred.

The maximum penalty for failing to report such accidents to WorkSafe is $25,000.

Department of Consumer and Employment Protection acting director general Brian Bradley said the incidence of non-reporting could be as high as 80 per cent.

Kohlen Joinery was the company most recently charged for not reporting an accident.

It was fined $2,500 for two cases of not reporting accidents to WorkSafe and another $4,000 in relation to operating machinery without proper guarding.

It appears most employers are unaware of their duty to report accidents to WorkSafe.

They make a workers’ compensation claim to their insurer and often believe that is the end of their responsibilities.

To address this, Rob Guthrie included three recommendations to address this in his Report on the Implementation of the Labor Party Direction Statement in Relation to Workers’ Compensation.

Mr Guthrie suggested that: WorkCover reported poor performers to WorkSafe; that WorkSafe set criteria to identify poor safety performers; and WorkCover should inform WorkSafe whenever companies had surcharges applied to their workers’ compensation premiums.

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