When there is a work-related death or injury, WorkSafe may investigate what happened to identify possible breaches of Victoria’s Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004 (OHS Act) or other laws.
A person can also request a WorkSafe investigation in some situations.
What happens in an investigation?
A WorkSafe investigator starts the investigation at the site of the workplace incident. During the investigation they may:
- ask people about what happened - such as witnesses, other employees and the employer
- consult industry experts
- collect evidence about the incident
- look at employment, training and medical records.
A WorkSafe investigation is complex and can take many months or longer.
Once the investigation is complete, it is sent to the WorkSafe legal team for legal review.
The WorkSafe legal team considers the evidence and decides whether to take enforcement action. For example, WorkSafe may decide to prosecute or issue a letter of caution.
- Is there enough evidence to support enforcement action?
- Is enforcement action in the public interest?
When deciding which action to take, WorkSafe may consult with the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP).
A WorkSafe prosecution is a criminal hearing. It is held in the same courts as other criminal matters. WorkSafe has the power to issue charges against a person or company for breaches of the OHS Act (including, for example, an employer, a self-employed person, an employee or a supplier or manufacturer of plant or substances).
A letter of caution is a formal warning that the OHS Act has been breached. It’s an alternative for prosecution. Cautions are only given in a few circumstances and they are for relatively minor offences.
The caution puts the accused on notice that any further breaches may result in a prosecution.
The accused may propose an enforceable undertaking to WorkSafe. If WorkSafe accepts the enforceable undertaking, it is an alternative to prosecution.
An enforceable undertaking is a written commitment to do certain things in a set timeframe. The commitment should seek to improve health and safety generally, and deliver benefits beyond compliance with the law.
Information and support for families and injured workers
WorkSafe's Information Officer can:
- give you information about the progress of the investigation and prosecution
- explain court processes
- attend court with you and support you on the day
- connect you with other support services.
The Information Officer cannot provide crisis support. If you need urgent counselling please contact Lifeline on 13 11 14 and in an emergency please call 000.
Mandatory investigation request form
WorkSafe occupational health and safety compliance and enforcement policy
Guide to the occupational health and safety compliance and enforcement framework
WorkSafe Victoria general prosecution guidelines
Policy on letters of caution
Policy on Enforceable Undertakings pursuant to section 16 of the Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004
Prosecution Result Summaries and Enforceable Undertakings
WorkSafe, the media and going to court