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Facing a workplace safety breach investigation?

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WHS Breach Investigations

Employment Law

Are you facing an investigation into an alleged breach of WHS rules and need help? Here is a good starting place.


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Call Anderson Legal for a fixed-price initial consultation about the workplace investigation you face.


Get legal advice about workplace investigations from Anderson Legal, starting with an initial consultation.

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Workplace Safety Breach Investigations

Disciplinary Processes Australia

Anderson Legal assists executives, managers, and employees facing investigations into alleged work health and safety breaches.

There is not one ‘all-purpose’ response to workplace investigations into alleged health and safety breaches. Each situation is different.

About Workplace Investigations

Getting notice that you are the subject of an internal workplace investigation into an alleged breach of work health and safety rules can feel daunting. Understanding as much as possible about the process can be the start of properly defending your interests.

Getting informed about your potential response options to a workplace investigation is a good first step. There are a number of ways to do so if you are the subject of a work health and safety breach allegation:

  • Learn more about workplace investigations, general options and important considerations (read on)
  • Get urgent, initial legal advice from an employment lawyer (learn more)
  • Get representation to challenge an unsafe work allegation (details below)

Getting expert advice can be crucial to understanding your rights and responsibilities. It may also assist you in exercising your options and advancing your interests.

Executives and employees found to have breached work health and safety rules often face disciplinary action up to and including dismissal. Conciliation outcomes from the Fair Work Commission show reinstatement is unlikely after dismissal:

Whether by agreement through conciliation or following a decision after a contested process, experience shows that it is relatively rare for people to be reinstated after being dismissed from the workplace.

As with any legal issue, there is no substitute for getting professional legal advice as early as possible. However, understandably, before hiring a lawyer, most people want to get better informed about the general issues they face.

What is the purpose of a workplace investigation?

A workplace investigation involves an examination of an allegation or allegations of wrongdoing against an employee. For an employer, a workplace investigation may also serve a number of purposes:

  • Enforce workplace standards
  • Comply with legal obligations
  • Minimise legal risks

So the essential aim of a workplace investigation is to uncover facts so as to allow an employer to make a decision about a particular issue upon a proper factual basis. However, it is important to understand employers may be balancing a number of interests in starting a workplace investigation.

If you are the subject of a workplace investigation looking into work health and safety issues that you believe or know to be unfair, wrong or vexatious, the only purpose you have is to clear your name. Understanding the fundamental purposes and aims of workplace investigations should help to shape your response and clarify the options available to you in responding.

Employee rights during workplace investigations

Employees facing workplace investigations into breaching WHS rules at work have a number of rights or are owed a number of obligations by their employer. Generally, these include:

  • Confidentiality rights
  • Work health and safety rights
  • Legal or union representation
  • Privilege against self-incrimination
  • Procedural fairness
  • Reasonable accommodations

Understanding these rights can be important to understand how a workplace investigation may best be navigated.

Employee responsibilities during workplace investigations

In workplace investigations employees may have responsibilities as well as rights. They may arise from the duties employees owe employers generally under laws relating to employment contracts, specific laws, or the policies and procedures an employee may be expected to adhere to in a given workplace.

Employees have a general responsibility to comply with reasonable directions from their employer, including conditions imposed as part of a workplace investigation.

In a workplace investigation into a work health and safety breach allegation, a respondent will generally have the following obligations:

  • Act honestly and frankly
  • Maintain confidentiality as reasonably required by the workplace investigation
  • Not take adverse action against a complainant or witness
  • Participate in the workplace investigation

There are exceptions to these general obligations, which is why it is always necessary to take a tailored approach when responding to an investigation into alleged breaches of safe work practices. It is important to note there are specific protections for people under investigation by regulators for work health and safety breaches, which serves to highlight the importance of obtaining urgent legal advice when dealing with such issues.

If you are facing a workplace investigation and fail to uphold your responsibilities as part of it, you may jeopardise the effectiveness of any response you may provide. Obtaining early and authoritative advice from an experienced employment lawyer can assist you to understand your rights, obligations and options.

Response Options

There is no ‘all-purpose’ response to unsafe work allegations

There are many different approaches a person may take when faced with a complaint about alleged unsafe work practices. The reasons for this are obvious. Not all allegations are the same and individual circumstances need to be considered.

There are numerous ways an allegation relating to unsafe work practices may arise. Safe Work Australia provided data on the most common work-related injuries and diseases in Key Work Health and Safety Statistics, Australia 2022. It showed:

Most Common Work-Related Injury & Disease 2020-21

Breaches of work health and safety rules do occur and can result in serious harm, even death. However, allegations of unsafe work practices that are unfair or false also occur. It is not always a case of the accuser lying about events. People can wrongly label something as “unsafe” or not be aware of important facts that explain the context of an event.

The varied ways an allegation of breaching safe work practices may arise, and the prospect of investigations by a regulator into such events, means there is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach to responding.

Understand your options

There may be a number of options open when responding to an internal workplace investigation into alleged unsafe work practices. However, because the situation may be unfamiliar, involves short timeframes, and is generally highly stressful, people do not always appreciate their options or weigh them in a considered manner.

Four common options when responding to issues of this nature include:

  • Obtaining advice and guidance;
  • Challenging the process;
  • Challenging the allegations; and,
  • Initiating ‘without prejudice’ negotiations.

There are many different approaches a person may take and there is generally no one ‘right answer’ given different people will have different priorities. In some cases, there may be multiple strands to the response, with each strand having a distinct purpose but combining to operate together.

Often the work of an employment lawyer involves assisting their client to challenge allegations, raise issues about procedural fairness, and sometimes engage in ‘without prejudice’ negotiations to resolve the problem quickly.

Every case is different, which is why anybody seeking personalised advice about a specific situation should consult a lawyer as soon as possible, as certain options may cease to be available the longer an investigation proceeds. Anderson Legal offers a fixed-price, no-obligation initial consultation for people facing an investigation into alleged unsafe work practices (learn more).

Important Considerations

Get appropriate support

People facing a workplace investigation are often instructed by their employer to keep the process confidential. It can make the process feel isolating and disempowering.

Isolation and disempowerment can lead people to feel they are simply subject to the process and that the result will be what it will be. This feeling can undermine the opportunity a person has to put their best foot forward in an investigation.

An experienced lawyer can help you gain a sense of support and authority.

In dealing with internal investigations into alleged unsafe work practices, it can be surprising how often employers and managers (even with the benefit of advisers):

  • fail to afford procedural fairness;
  • fail to comply with their own policies and procedures; or,
  • fail to take into account relevant information.

The question is: How seriously such flaws are taken by decision-makers? The answer may depend, to some degree, on the authority of the person raising the issue. For that reason, having the support and authority of a lawyer on your side can be critical.

Dr Robert Cialdini identified ‘the principle of authority’ as one of the six key principles of influence in his book, “Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion”. It describes the tendency for people to agree or comply with people seen as having authority on a subject. Numerous studies have shown the impact of the ‘principle of authority’ on decision-makers. In the Harvard Business Review, he described the essence of the authority principle in this way:

Two thousand years ago, the Roman poet Virgil offered this simple counsel to those seeking to choose correctly: “Believe an expert.” That may or may not be good advice, but as a description of what people actually do, it can’t be beaten.

So, if you are facing an investigation into an alleged WHS breach, getting a lawyer may assist in your voice being heard. However, the true value of a lawyer may run deeper.

The persuasiveness of the response is critical

While knowing the law is fundamental for a lawyer, so is their expertise as an advocate.

Advocacy is all about persuasion.

Persuasion leads thought and action. So in dealing with an investigation into an alleged safety breach, persuasiveness is a critical element to any response.

Work can be one of our defining characteristics, or at least an important part of how we perceive ourselves. So if you feel you have been wrongly accused of unsafe work practices and are facing investigation, it is obvious that it should generally be treated as being of the utmost importance.

Experienced lawyers are able to draw on past cases where similar issues were encountered and whether particular strategies or responses were persuasive. This bank of knowledge can be drawn upon to provide expert guidance for anybody newly facing such a situation.

Anderson Legal provides legal advice to executives and employees facing internal investigations into alleged breaches of WHS rules. Contact this firm for a confidential, fixed-price, and no-obligation initial consultation.

Fixed-Price Consultation

On-Demand Resources

If you are facing an investigation into alleged WHS breaches, Anderson Legal offers a fixed-price initial consultation.

An initial consultation with Anderson Legal is:

Fixed-price initial consultation

Fixed-Price Consultation
One-Hour Consultation
Confidential
No-Obligation Consultation

A fixed-price initial consultation is $495 incl. GST for up to one hour, which may be tax deductible (consult your tax advisor).

If you are dealing with a workplace investigation into an alleged safety breach, book an appointment for an initial consultation with Anderson Legal. It is designed to deliver clear and timely advice that allows you to understand the relevant legal issues and make informed choices about the action that may be taken.

The time is devoted to ensuring an understanding of the particular issues to allow advice to be given based on the information you provide, which may include:

  • The legal framework of work health and safety:
    • Employer rights and responsibilities
    • Employee rights and responsibilities
  • Was it a breach of safe work practices?
  • Examples of outcomes from breaches of WHS rules
  • Response options to workplace investigations:
    • Challenging the process
    • Challenging the allegations
    • Initiating ‘without prejudice’ negotiations
    • Responding to proposed disciplinary action
    • Litigating claims of breaching safe work practices
  • Specific issues with breaches of WHS
    • Alternative dispute resolution
    • Potential criminal charges
    • Victimisation and reprisal action
    • Public servants accused of unsafe work practices
    • Executives accused of unsafe work practices

An initial consultation with Anderson Legal is obligation-free, meaning there is no expectation or commitment to further legal work or costs. If you want to engage this firm to provide you with further advice or legal representation, estimates of costs will be provided as far as possible.

Initial consultations are by appointment only, with in-person, video, and phone options possible.

Who this firm assists

Anderson Legal exists to resolve workplace problems. It provides legal services to:

  • small business operators
  • executives in medium to large enterprises
  • employees in medium to large enterprises
  • public service employees

The potential impact of allegations of unsafe work practices on reputations, relationships, and livelihoods makes it critical to have an employment lawyer who is equal to the task. If you need an employment lawyer, there are many reasons why Anderson Legal should be your preferred choice:

  • Andrew Anderson, Legal Director, is an experienced lawyer who has been independently described by the Courier Mail as “one of the best legal minds” and a “leading corporate and white-collar crime lawyer” (16 December 2021).
  • Having successfully represented litigants in the High Court of Australia, Royal Commissions, Fair Work Commission, and multiple other courts and tribunals, Andrew Anderson has a demonstrated record of success in complex and difficult cases.
  • Prior to operating a law firm, Andrew Anderson worked as a Principal Crown Prosecutor in Queensland and barrister in practice at 8 Petrie Terrace Chambers. His depth of courtroom experience ranges from straightforward claims right through to complex trials and appeals.
  • Anderson Legal is a law firm that is dedicated to the best ideals of the legal profession. Seeking to exceed client expectations and working for just outcomes is an everyday pursuit.

Read below how this firm can assist you, what it costs to get advice, and when to contact this firm.

How this firm can assist

With respect to alleged unsafe work practices, this firm assists its clients in navigating issues of all kinds, including:

  • advising on whether certain conduct may be classified as a breach of WHS duties
  • assisting with workplace investigations related to alleged WHS breaches
  • negotiating resolutions with respect to alleged WHS breaches
  • outlining the different actions or claims that may be available, such as:
    • anti-bullying law protections
    • unfair dismissal claims
    • general protections claims
    • discrimination claims
  • dealing with regulators investigating alleged WHS breaches
  • representing clients litigating issues associated with alleged WHS breaches

Note: Anderson Legal does not provide advice relating to personal injury laws or workers’ compensation laws.

What it costs to get advice

Fixed price initial consultation

Fixed-Price Consultation
One-Hour Consultation
Confidential
No-Obligation Consultation

A fixed-price initial consultation is $495 incl. GST for up to one hour, which may be tax deductible (consult your tax advisor).

If you are dealing with a workplace investigation into an alleged safety breach, book an appointment for an initial consultation with Anderson Legal. It is designed to deliver clear and timely advice that allows you to understand the relevant legal issues and make informed choices about the action that may be taken.

The time is devoted to ensuring an understanding of the particular issues to allow advice to be given based on the information you provide, which may include:

  • The legal framework of work health and safety:
    • Employer rights and responsibilities
    • Employee rights and responsibilities
  • Was it a breach of safe work practices?
  • Examples of outcomes from breaches of WHS rules
  • Response options to workplace investigations:
    • Challenging the process
    • Challenging the allegations
    • Initiating ‘without prejudice’ negotiations
    • Responding to proposed disciplinary action
    • Litigating claims of breaching safe work practices
  • Specific issues with breaches of WHS
    • Alternative dispute resolution
    • Potential criminal charges
    • Victimisation and reprisal action
    • Public servants accused of unsafe work practices
    • Executives accused of unsafe work practices

An initial consultation with Anderson Legal is obligation-free, meaning there is no expectation or commitment to further legal work or costs. If you want to engage this firm to provide you with further advice or legal representation, estimates of costs will be provided as far as possible.

Initial consultations are by appointment only, with in-person, video, and phone options possible.

Representation for investigations into alleged breaches of WHS

Anderson Legal is transparent about how it charges legal fees.

This firm generally charges on a capped-fee, fixed-fee, or time-costed basis. How you are charged is something that may be negotiated and your preferences are taken into consideration.

Please note that Anderson Legal does not undertake legal work on a ‘no-win, no-fee’ basis.

In providing representation for workplace investigations into alleged safety breaches, Anderson Legal puts in place a formal costs agreement with all clients. This includes a disclosure statement outlining important rights, as well as quotes or estimates for applicable legal fees.

When to contact this firm

Employment law issues can have strict timeframes, so it is prudent to seek legal advice as soon as possible for employment law concerns.

Internal investigations into alleged unsafe work practices can involve many legal complexities with potential consequences for reputations, relationships, and livelihoods. It is the reason why it can be critical for anyone facing such issues to get urgent legal advice.

If you want legal advice, you should call Anderson Legal to set up an appointment for a fixed-price initial consultation: