Suffering an injury at work can place you in a very difficult position, and not just because of the physical pain and suffering experienced. Employees may worry about losing their current job or having trouble finding future work, and therefore may not want to report injuries to their employer. But can failure to report a workplace injury result in disciplinary action?
Though you may believe your injury to be relatively minor, it could impact your ability to work safely and place yourself and co-workers in a dangerous situation. For example, if you suffer a back injury at work and continue lifting heavy objects, you place not only yourself at the risk of further injury, but also any person assisting you. Indeed, failure to disclose your injury can be a breach of section 25(1) of the Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004 (Vic). This section places a duty on employees to take reasonable care for their own health and safety, take reasonable care for the health and safety of persons who may be affected by their acts or omissions at the workplace, and to co-operate with their employer regarding any action taken by the employer to comply with the law. Not only does a breach expose employees to fines of up to $297,396, but intentionally failing to comply with the Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004 (Vic) would entitle the employer to take disciplinary action against an employee, including issuing a formal warning and termination of employment.
Due to this risk, it is highly recommended that employees report workplace injuries to their employer as soon as it happens. Reporting injuries when they happen is also beneficial should employees decide to bring a WorkCover claim in the future. Furthermore, making written disclosure of an injury can assist in other forms of litigation, such as a claim for adverse action. Section 352 of the Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth) protects an employee from being dismissed due to temporary absence from work due to an illness or injury, and section 351 protects employees from any adverse action due to a physical or mental disability. Employers also have legal obligations to help an injured employee return to work by providing suitable employment and keeping pre-injury roles open for their return. None of this can occur if the employee does not report their injury.
Sustaining a workplace injury can be a stressful experience. If you find yourself in a position where you have been injured at work and believe unfair action has been taken against you due to the injury, you should seek advice from a lawyer.