SafeWork SA conducts investigations following workplace incidents which have resulted in a death or serious injury. Employers have a responsibility to notify SafeWork SA of these incidents.
In the case of a fatality
Usually the South Australia Police (SAPOL) will attend a workplace following a work-related death. SAPOL will also routinely advise us when they are attending a workplace following the report of a death. In most cases, our inspectors will attend the workplace.
SAPOL will complete a number of tasks including:
- notifying the injured person’s family and next of kin
- arranging for formal identification of the deceased
- notifying the State Coroner of the death
- conducting an investigation to establish whether any criminal offences were committed. This may involve taking statements from witnesses and collecting evidence to assist in determining the circumstances surrounding the incident.
The State Coroner is responsible for ascertaining the cause or circumstances of a reportable death. The SAPOL conduct enquiries and investigations for, and on behalf of the State Coroner. The State Coroner may request a forensic pathologist perform a post-mortem and report their findings.
Following the outcomes of investigations, the State Coroner will make a finding as to the cause and circumstances of a person’s death. The State Coroner may, in certain circumstances, conduct an inquest to hear evidence from a range of witnesses, before delivering a finding about the cause of death. Where appropriate, the State Coroner may make recommendations with a view to preventing further deaths occurring in similar circumstances.
If the Coroner finds that the cause of death is not work-related (for example, natural causes such as a pre-existing medical condition or similar), we will finalise our enquiries and advise the State Coroner and next of kin of the outcome.
If the Coroner finds that the cause of death is work-related then we will continue our investigations. We will advise the next of kin that we are investigating the incident and will provide updates on any developments in the investigation. Investigations can be complex and some cases may take many months.
If we need to investigate the incident, our inspectors may:
- ask people what happened including taking witness statements
- collect evidence
- look at training, maintenance and medical records.
After an investigation, we may issue charges against a person or business for breaches of the WHS law.
SafeWork SA and SAPOL have different roles and responsibilities when investigating a workplace death and may conduct joint or separate investigations depending upon the circumstances of the incident. SafeWork SA and SAPOL will work closely together however separate investigations may be necessary where the agencies require different information from witnesses for their inquiries.
At the end of an investigation, we will consider all of the evidence obtained to establish whether there has been a breach of the work health and safety law.
As a result of an investigation, and subject to a number of considerations, based on the evidence obtained we may decide to do one or more of the following:
- take no further action
- issue a safety alert
- initiate an education campaign for the relevant industry
- commence appropriate enforcement option/s as provided by the Act.
If there is sufficient reliable evidence that suggests a breach of the Act, we will assess the most appropriate enforcement response.
If there is insufficient reliable evidence to suggest there was a breach of the law, we will not proceed with a prosecution. However we will consider the investigation outcomes with a view to preventing similar incidents through education.