In the legal world, "he-said, she-said" is usually pretty unlikely to win your case. In workplace injuries, it can be even more difficult. Any evidence, whether it's formally written down or witnessed by a co-worker, can be critical to the success of a claim.
So if something happens at your workplace, even if you're not injured, the best thing you can do is report it, record it and repeat it.
Tom* recently won his workers’ compensation claim after a hard-fought battle that was hampered by lack of written evidence at the time of injury.
Tom, a truck driver in Queensland, sustained a significant neck injury after being required to repeatedly haul himself into the truck cabin using his upper body strength, due to his first step being too high from the ground. Despite being a truckie his whole life, Tom's injury was so severe that he had to stop work.
However, Tom's employer denied responsibility for the injury by saying they had no records that Tom had made any complaints about the height of the first step – and Tom was unable to provide written evidence that he had raised the issue.
Three key steps
One of the most important things you can do in any workplace is raise awareness of issues that affect your ability to work safely, so our message is: report it, record it, and repeat it.
- Write the incident down on your company’s incident report form.
- Make sure to include the details of the incident – what, when, why, how, who – and be specific.
- If your company doesn’t have an incident report form or won’t give one to you, put the details of the incident in an email or text message to your boss.
- Make sure your union delegate or organiser is aware of the issues.
- Talk to your co-workers, especially if there are witnesses to an incident, so that you know who to rely on for evidence should it be required.
- Keep your own records – don’t rely on your company to keep records of your complaints safe.
- Keep a copy of the incident form, email or text you’ve sent your boss.
- If you have any other formal work documentation, such as a logbook in your truck, write down any incidents in the notes section in your own words so that there is a separate written record to the official forms.
- If there’s been no action, talk to your boss again or submit another form. Each time you talk to your boss, you should record it.
- Get your union delegate or organiser involved if there’s no resolution.
Your safety is a priority
In Tom's case, we were able to source reports from medical professionals and ergonomic experts that the ongoing repeated strain from our member pulling himself into his cabin was the cause of his injury. However, written evidence would have helped Tom's case and possibly would have led to a faster resolution to his claim.
Your safety at work should be your priority at all times. When your safety is compromised: report it, record it, repeat it.