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It is primarily employers, who have a statutory duty to report workplace accidents, who notify WorkSafeBC of workplace incidents. Others, including workers, family members, and the public, may also inform WorkSafeBC of workplace incidents. See Reporting accidents and incidents for more information.
We respond to all reported workplace incidents that result in death or an injury, or that present a high risk of causing a serious injury or death to workers. Depending on the circumstances of the incident, WorkSafeBC may conduct an in-depth investigation and produce an incident investigation report.
The purpose of a WorkSafeBC investigation is two-fold. First, it is to identify the cause of the incident in order to learn how to prevent similar incidents from occurring in the future. The second purpose is to determine whether there has been non-compliance with the occupational health and safety law and take appropriate action (such as written orders and/or administrative penalties) to ensure future compliance. The overriding goal is to prevent workplace incidents through education and deterrence of unsafe practices.
WorkSafeBC responds to all significant incidents but will conduct an in-depth investigation and produce an incident investigation report on selected incidents based on specific criteria. Incident investigations are conducted on all incidents involving a fatality and on selected incidents involving a serious injury or risk of serious injury, where there are health and safety lessons that can be learned from an analysis of the cause or where a serious compliance issue is identified.
In general, WorkSafeBC focuses its investigative resources on incidents where there is the greatest opportunity to promote health and safety through preventative lessons or deterrence of health and safety violations.
An employer must conduct an investigation under circumstances set out in section 173 of the Workers Compensation Act. In general, these are incidents where there was an injury to a worker requiring medical treatment or there was a potential for serious injury to a worker. WorkSafeBC provides a form (52E40) to help employers conduct an investigation.
Depending on the circumstances, a number of agencies may have jurisdiction to investigate workplace incidents. Investigations may be conducted by police agencies, Office of the Fire Commissioner, local coroners, federal agencies such as Transport Canada, and agencies with jurisdiction over specific activities (such as mining) or equipment (such as boilers).
Investigations are conducted by prevention officers of WorkSafeBC. Depending on the circumstances, an investigation may also include engineers, lawyers, ergonomists, hygienists, and external contractors with specific expertise, as required.
The initial stages of an investigation look much like a police investigation. Officers will attend and secure the scene, take photographs, interview witnesses, and seize relevant evidence such as equipment, samples, or documents.
Once the relevant information has been collected, it is analyzed using the integrated safety investigation methodology developed by the Transportation Safety Board of Canada to identify the causal factors in a sequence of events leading to an incident. This analysis may lead to a follow-up investigation to fully address all issues related to the incident.
The investigation and analysis are documented in an incident investigation report, which identifies the causal factors in the incident as much as they can be determined from the evidence. Where there are health and safety lessons to be learned from the causal factors, the investigation report is reviewed by a special committee to develop recommendations to address the risks identified and prevent similar incidents.
Depending on the complexity, an investigation may take anywhere from a few days to several months. Some investigations may require specialized testing of equipment and the production of expert reports or a review of thousands of documents. Timely completion of an incident investigation is a high priority for WorkSafeBC, in the interests of health and safety and of workers and their families.
Until an investigation is finalized, only very limited information can be communicated because premature release of information could impact the integrity of the investigation. In some instances, there may also be administrative sanctions or prosecutions under the Workers Compensation Actthat could be impacted by the release of specific information. Even when the report has been finalized, certain information is protected under the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Actand confidentiality provisions of the Workers Compensation Act. Subject to these limitations, WorkSafeBC makes as much information available as possible.
The final incident investigation report can be obtained through a request to the WorkSafeBC's Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Office, which will sever private information protected under the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act.
The Workers Compensation Act permits WorkSafeBC to impose an administrative penalty against an employer, up to a maximum of $603,347.68, in specific circumstances described in section 196 of the Act. Alternatively, an employer may be prosecuted in provincial court for a violation of the Workers Compensation Act. Individuals are not subject to administrative penalties but can be prosecuted for an offence under the Act.
The Workers Compensation Act prevents workers or their survivors from suing the employer or other workers for a workplace injury, illness, or death. This prohibition reflects a long-standing compromise where workers and their survivors acquire the right to receive timely compensation for work-related injuries or death, regardless of fault, and in exchange give up their right to sue other workers and the employers who fund the "no fault" system. For more information, view the Workers' compensation and injury lawsuits FAQs.