What is the role of a WorkCover inspector?

WorkCover NSW administers the law on work health and safety and workers compensation in New South Wales. A WorkCover inspector can visit workplaces or work sites to check you are complying with the law.

Sometimes inspectors target a certain industry to check for specific hazards. Other reasons that WorkCover might send an inspector include investigating a complaint against you or an incident or accident in the workplace. This can also occur after an employee has made a workers compensation claim, or you have notified WorkCover about an incident or injury.

Here we outline what you need to do when an inspector visits your workplace.

What is the role of a WorkCover inspector?

WorkCover now says that the main role of its inspectors is to educate employers on work health and safety law and workers compensation law. However you must be well prepared if an inspector does visit your workplace. In our experience they often use what they learn during this first educational visit to send another inspector to your workplace at a later date. Often the subsequent inspector issues a penalty notice for safety breaches that were identified during the ‘educational’ visit.

Please call us if you receive a WorkCover visit, or you receive notice of a visit.

What could happen during a visit?

The inspector might:

  • check whether you are complying with work health and safety and workers compensation laws
  • give you information on the work health and safety law and workers compensation law
  • investigate a breach
  • investigate an injury or incident
  • investigate reports of unsafe, unhealthy or dangerous work practices or conditions—anyone can make a report
  • begin a prosecution against you.

All WorkCover inspectors carry photo identification and must identify themselves when they enter the workplace. When they arrive union representatives might also accompany them. An inspector can talk to whoever they choose and gather information from them about the workplace.

What powers do WorkCover inspectors have?

Under the law, inspectors have a range of powers including the power to:

  • enter and investigate any premises they have reason to believe is a place of work
  • conduct interviews and make inquiries
  • take photographs, recordings, measurements and samples
  • examine and copy documents
  • issue directions
  • issue notices that require you to fix unsafe working conditions, stop work, provide proof of workers’ compensation insurance or issue an on-the-spot fine.

Inspectors might request the help of technical or scientific experts and can ask for help from a police officer. WorkCover and the New South Wales police share databases and work together on certain safety issues.

What enforcement options are available to a WorkCover inspector?

Improvement notice

An improvement notice instructs you to fix a particular hazard or risk within a certain timeframe. It should clearly identify the unsafe work practice or hazard that you need to remove or minimise.

In most instances the inspector will return to the workplace to check that you have made the changes that were requested. Failing to make the changes could lead to WorkCover issuing you with a penalty notice or starting a prosecution.

Workers compensation notice

A notice requiring you to fix an issue with workers compensation and the way you manage injuries within a specific timeframe.

Prohibition notice

A prohibition notice is issued if there is an immediate health or safety risk to life. You must stop work until the risk is removed.

WorkCover can take court action if you don’t stop work.

Penalty notice

A penalty notice is an on-the-spot fine.

Prosecution

The most serious action WorkCover can take is to prosecute you. A prosecution is a criminal proceeding heard before the courts with heavy penalties.  For the most serious cases involving recklessness and serious harm a prison sentence may be imposed.