Did You Report a Workplace Injury In Time?

An injury or accident in the workplace can be very disruptive to both employees and employers. Depending on how serious the injury is, it may require time off work or could impact if the employee’s capability of doing their job. But most importantly, if nothing is done about a hazard that has caused an injury then more people could be hurt. This is something everyone wants to avoid to keep the workplace as safe to work in as possible, which is why documenting and reporting an injury as soon as it occurs is important for everyone.

One of the first obligations an employee has after injuring themself in the workplace is to notify their employer as quickly as possible.  This needs to be done either verbally or in writing, even if no claims need to be lodged for this injury. If an employer receives notice of a workplace injury, then they are obliged to act upon the information and ensure the employee receives the help he or she requires to continue or return to work at the earliest time possible.

How soon must an injury be reported?

The law specifically states that communication of the injury must be as soon as “practicable” and before the employee has left the workplace. However, it should be noted that most Australian states have a ‘no-fault’ based workers compensation system in place. This means that in cases where the injury is not reported straight away, it is the responsibility or the employer/insurance company to prove that an injury was not in fact sustained in the workplace.

For example, an employee may twist their back lifting a box at the end of the workday, and because it’s not very painful at the time they simply go home and take some painkillers. However, over the next few days it becomes worse because they are continuing to lift boxes. Even if the original injury was not reported at the time of the incident, compensation can still be claimed for a certain period of time afterwards – in NSW, for example, the period is six months. The NSW Injury Management Act states:

44 Early notification of workplace injury

(1) An injured worker must notify the employer that the worker has received a workplace injury as soon as possible after the injury happens.

(2) The employer of an injured worker must notify the insurer or the Authority within 48 hours after becoming aware that a worker has received a workplace injury in the manner prescribed by the regulations.

(3) If an employer has given notice to the insurer in accordance with subsection (2) of a workplace injury to a worker, the insurer must forward that notice to the Authority in accordance with the regulations.

(3A) If an employer has given notice to the Authority in accordance with subsection (2) of a workplace injury to a worker:

(a) the Authority must as soon as practicable forward that notice to the insurer, and

(b) the notice given to the Authority is taken to be notice given to the insurer for the purposes of the employer’s policy of insurance.

(4) Subsection (2) do not apply when the insurer is a self-insurer.

(5) An insurance premiums order referred to in the definition of

“prescribed excess amount” in section 160 (1) of the 1987 Act may make provision for the prescribed excess amount applicable to an employer under that section to vary according to the time within which the employer notifies theinsurer concerned that a worker has received a workplace injury.

It can be daunting for some people to communicate with an employer about injuries or problems in the workplace, as you don’t feel comfortable raising issues that may have an impact on your position. But the reality is that injuries are a constant of any workplace, regardless of whether it is hard labour or office work, and the majority of employers understand this. After all, that’s why they have insurance.

Disputes regarding workplace injuries can often be very drawn out, and cost both the employer and the employee injured time and money. This could be avoided if the early reporting of an injury is carried out, and all the parties involved are likely to avoid some grief with the courts in the long run. That’s why early reporting of an injury is still recommended.

What happens after an injury has been reported?

Once an injury has been recorded by the employer, steps can be taken to start the recovery process. It is well documented that the earlier treatment begins then the sooner a person is likely to be able to return to work.

Any injury, whether it requires medical treatment or not, can increase in seriousness if not attended to correctly. If an employer is aware of an injury, then steps can be taken to allow a change in duties so as not to aggravate an injury further. This change in workplace activity needs to be work that the employee is fit to perform, and yet still similar to the work they were already doing.

It is recommended to have a medical professional give an informed ruling on what types of ‘light duties’ the employee can and can not perform, and can also serve to monitor the recovery of the injured employee. If the injury is serious enough that it puts them out of action between 5 – 28 days, then a return to work plan must be completed which gives a detailed analysis of what the employee can and cannot do during this time.

Will the employee’s finances be affected?

On a financial side, the earlier a claim is forwarded by the employer then the faster process of workers compensation if appropriate can begin. This compensation can be for loss of wages, for medical expenses, or for both. It is also important to note that the employee can take the initiative and lodge a claim with the employer’s workers compensation insurer. Workplaces are required by law to display the employers workers compensation insurer where it is visible by all staff.

Of course, whether compensation is paid will depend upon the severity of the injury and the circumstances of each case, but if the employer knows about the injury at an early stage then they are able to support and help the employee complete the required documents for this process to start. Not reporting an injury may later affect what entitlements a person may be eligible for.

No matter what type of injury an employee receives, it is always the best practise for the incident to be reported to a supervisor or employer as quickly as possible. This way the correct steps can be taken to ensure the employee has a full recovery, the hazard is eliminated from being a threat to other workers, and any necessary compensation claims can be made to the insurance company.

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