Preventing & responding to serious workplace incidents


Workplace misconduct is a critical issue in Australia workplaces. From the Respect at Work and Set the Standard reports, to current media reports of workplace bullying and sexual harassment, the message is clear: It’s crucial that employers closely examine their workplace culture and implement effective measures to prevent and address serious incidents in the workplace.


The Set the Standards report recommends that five key elements should be considered in order to foster a respectful workplace. These can be summarised as:

  1. Committed, accountable leadership

  2. Gender diversity, equality and inclusion

  3. Consistent HR policies and processes including a code of conduct and ethics

  4. Independent, unbiased systems of reporting and investigating incidents

  5. Proactive risk mitigation to protect staff health, safety and wellbeing


In January 2021, Safe Work Australia released national guidance materials on preventing workplace sexual harassment. These resources support employers to meet their WHS duties with practical steps to manage the risks of sexual, violence and aggression in the workplace, including gendered violence, as well as information on how to provide support and a safe environment for workers affected by domestic and family violence.


The two overall keys to preventing serious workplace incidents are:

  1. Reviewing the workplace systems and culture to identify the hazards and risks, and

  2. Ensuring effective control measures.


There are many potential control measures that can be considered. According to Safe Work Australia, these can be narrowed down to:

  • Physical work environment and security

  • Safe work systems and procedures

  • Workplace policies, including a code of conduct and ethics

  • Considering and preventing third-party harassment and risks outside the workplace

  • Addressing unwanted, offensive or inappropriate behaviour early

  • Encouraging the reporting of sexual harassment

  • Information, instruction, training and supervision

  • Ongoing risk management by reviewing the control measures

Read Respect and responsibility in the workplace >


The four overall keys to responding to serious workplace incidents are:

  1. Following the organisation’s process for managing complaints, which should include being respectful, taking matters seriously and practicing procedural fairness

  2. Following the organisation’s disciplinary process where appropriate

  3. Providing support e.g. access to an employee assistance program

  4. Ongoing risk management by reviewing the control measures

Read How will you respond to a complaint of misconduct? Can you do better? >


Serious workplace incidents should always take urgent priority for a manager or supervisor. Read more… Unfortunately, not all employers can afford to redirect their leadership staff away from their day-to-day operations. For support and assistance in preventing and responding to serious workplace incidents, please contact us today.