Top tips for early crisis support following a health and safety or environmental incident
Finch Consulting, Head of Legal, Susan Dearden gives her top tips for early crisis support following a health and safety or environmental incident.
When dealing with a health and safety or environmental incident, following a checklist will help to ensure that it is managed to: avoid further risk; maximise mitigation, and minimise adverse consequences for the business and managers within the business.
Your first priority should be two pronged – ensure the welfare of anyone injured, and avoid further injury/harm going forwards. Preserve the scene with photos/video or by isolation of equipment pending further investigation depending on the circumstances and any ongoing risk.
- Notify authorities as mandated by law. Do you need to report to HSE under RIDDOR (for certain injuries and near miss incidents – see https://www.hse.gov.uk/pubns/indg453.pdf (for guidance) or the Environment Agency for pollution?
- When making a compulsory report use clear, objective language and avoid conclusions and blame, though it may help to identify what you are doing in response to the incident to manage the particular risk.
- Gather and preserve all relevant documentation (RA, SSOW, MS, PTW, H&S Policies and Procedures, evidence of contractor competence, and training and maintenance records as well as relevant external and internal communications relevant to what has happened).
- Identify witnesses who may be able to assist an investigation (particularly direct witnesses to what happened and relevant line managers to establish the state of affairs and controls in place at the time)
- If the incident involves injury which could lead to a benefits claim, make and preserve a brief factual accident report providing date and method of report, date, time and place of event, personal details of those involved, the injury suffered and a brief description of the nature of the event. (Social Security (Claims and Payments) Regulations 1979 ). You are not obliged to record here any views on fault.
- Report the incident to your insurers – policy cover may be jeopardised through delay.
- Depending on what has happened you may need advice on publicity to protect reputation.
- Reassure staff before any investigation that the objective of the investigations to follow will be to ascertain the facts and ensure risks are managed appropriately going forwards and that the purpose is not to scapegoat anyone or attribute blame. Depending on what has happened:
- You may want to investigate what has happened yourselves but bear in mind that statements taken and any report produced are likely to be documents which you can be required to produce on any regulatory investigation, prosecution or claim. Documents should be written with that risk in mind.
- Your insurers may wish to investigate if a civil claim is possible. Your policy will require you to co-operate with that investigation but its purpose will be to determine potential compensation claim risks and value so should not be in lieu of your own investigation.
- If you would prefer to maintain the option of keeping investigations/statements and reports confidential use a specialist lawyer (for example the Finch Legal team) to investigate for you so that they can advise on your litigation and liability risks and create documentation over which confidentiality is maintained