Incident Investigation: Tips on handling the immediate aftermath of an incident

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Incident Investigation

In this blog specialist health and safety solicitor, Julia Thomas and Senior Consultant Michael Campbell who has a range of experience in investigating accidents and incidents in a wide range of industries provide some tips for business in the immediate aftermath of a serious workplace accident.

Accidents by their nature, are generally unexpected.  Having a clear procedure in place for that situation will help to avoid important actions being missed, and help to prioritise what needs to be done.

1: Assess whether there is a further risk to anyone from what has happened, take steps to secure the area to prevent further injury, and allow safe access for medical support to be given to anyone injured. The clarity in a procedure about how emergency services will be contacted (if needed) and directions that will need to be given to reach the location can be lifesaving.

2: Notify.

  • Avoid committing a criminal offence by ensuring that the incident is reported where necessary under the Reporting of Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations 2013 (RIDDOR).  Don’t forget that a verbal notification needs to be followed up in writing within 10 days.
  • Notify your insurers to avoid compromising cover. For accidents involving contractors or members of the public, it is likely to be your public liability policy that is relevant.  For accidents involving employees, it will be the employer’s liability policy.
  • Notify your health and safety lawyer who will be able to provide you with guidance and advice on strategy going forward.

3: Cooperate with any regulatory enquiry to support their investigation.  But be aware of what they have authority to do as well as your obligations and rights.

4: Investigate what happened to learn any lessons.  If begun quickly this can better prepare you to deal with the Regulator’s investigation (e.g., by pulling together relevant documents which they are likely to request from you) and it may also avoid enforcement notices and fees for intervention if you identify and rectify issues before being required to do so.

5: Communicate.  Have a communication plan.  Depending on the incident you may need to manage media interest.  But don’t forget to keep in touch with:

  • anyone injured to ensure that they are being cared for;
  • staff so they understand what is happening and what might happen next and to identify anyone with relevant information (and in due course are aware of any changes to the process that may be introduced to add to measures that mitigate risk);
  • any investigating regulator.

With its combination of engineering, human factor, and legal expertise and former EHO and HSE Inspectors, Finch Consulting is perhaps uniquely placed to assist in drafting (or auditing) emergency plans that work for your business.  This will help you to:

  • minimise adverse press and reputational damage;
  • avoid unnecessary criminal offences that can be committed post-accident;
  • build the evidence to support a defence where that is viable;
  • build your mitigation to minimise the impact of any conviction; and
  • ensure that you learn from events and avoid repetition.

If you wish to discuss how we can help, please contact:

Julia Thomas:                          [email protected]

Michael Campbell:                 [email protected]

Susan Dearden:                      [email protected]

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