Scaled Management Systems

Part 5a – The Concepts of Incident Causation

Summary of Parts 1 to 4

In Parts 1 to 4 we have seen the evolution of clear concepts regarding the definition of a workplace and the components needed for a product or service to be realised.

We have also seen how these same components are used by jurors to test the liability of an employer:-

  • Competent employees (People)
  • Safe building, equipment & plant (Assets & infrastructure)
  • Safe work methods supported by information, instruction, supervision & training (Methods)


  • While many of these concepts are strongly related to WHS management it must be remembered that the principle of common law duty of care is a common theme in all Westminster based legislation.
  • Therefore, similar tests apply for breaches of law in employment, environmental care, fair trading, financial practice, operating a motor vehicle and other encoded (prescribed) legislation.

Factors in determining liability in occupational incidents

We now start to look at how jurors apply the tests of causation during an investigation or prosecution.

Their main concern is identifying the root cause of an incident and understanding whether prevention was:-

  • Feasible
  • Possible / practical
  • Reasonable

The identification of root cause is critical and again demonstrates the important link with the design & implementation of management systems that control the workplace.

In the next article we’ll look at some of the definitions that are important to the application of these tests.