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The Journal for Employee Protection
The Journal for Employee Protection
by Sally Hancock
workplace accident or incident occurs, the immediate steps taken by a business
are critical – especially as these actions can be scrutinised by the relevant
regulatory bodies during their investigation. Whether operating in the care
sector or construction industry, a workplace incident should always be
responded to in the same way. In an ideal world, every organisation should have
an agreed incident response plan in place; however, for those that do not
currently, there are some clear guidelines that should be followed.
Secure the area
priority following an incident should always be securing the area. This is to
preserve the scene and prevent any evidence being disturbed. It is also crucial
in ensuring a secondary incident does not happen.
depending on the incident, there could be any number of regulatory bodies
involved in the investigation, and providing evidence will be key in preserving
the business’ position. The way you handle the investigation internally can,
and will, come under scrutiny.
The principle of legal privilege can enable a client to avoid disclosing certain documents and communications to regulatory bodies during a criminal investigation. Bringing in a legal representative at the early stages of an investigation can establish this.
advice at an early stage can also help to mitigate the process – solicitors can
act as a filter between your organisation and the regulatory bodies, ensuring
the flow of information is controlled and nothing is misrepresented. The
presence of a legal representative also becomes critical when interviews under
caution take place.
photographs of the scene which can be used at a later date is always helpful.
You should also speak to individuals who witnessed the incident to get an
initial account of events. If a regulatory body does investigate, they will
most likely want access to the health and safety policy, risk assessments,
method statements, any training records and maintenance and inspection records
for any equipment involved. Start collating a bundle of core documents in
preparation for the requests coming in.
single point of contact within the organisation who will oversee the
investigation internally, as well as coordinate engagement with the various
regulatory bodies. This person may require a small internal team to assist in
the investigation, but circulation of information and legal advice within the
business should be limited – having too large a team can undermine legal
If you are
dealing with a major incident, providing accurate information to employees will
be important to ensure the incident is not misrepresented internally or
externally. You may also want to provide guidance around spread of information
outside of the organisation, particularly on social media. Reputational
concerns for your business also need to be managed at such a critical time.
relevant regulatory bodies about a health and safety incident is of the utmost
importance – in some cases even if it is a near-miss. Failure to do so is considered
an offence, especially in situations where a dangerous occurrence has taken
place e.g. where the incident has the potential to cause serious injury or
incident has taken place, you must be seen to cooperate with regulatory bodies
whilst still protecting your position. Always remember that failure to
cooperate could be used against your organisation at a later date in any
All of these
steps can be made easier through the right preparation. Every business –
irrelevant of size – should have an incident response protocol in place. A plan
is only effective if it is executed efficiently, so it is always worth
practising this protocol in a mock ‘doomsday’ scenario.
should include allocating roles and responsibilities within the organisation,
should an incident occur. This not only provides clarity of response but
ensures there is no overlap. Crucially, if you do have a protocol in place,
your organisation must be seen to be complying with it. If not, this could be
deemed to suggest you are trying to hide something.
remember that when a regulatory body attends a workplace, they have extensive
powers and are entitled to review the whole premises, checking compliance
across all operations. You must be prepared to provide any information or
documentation they might require.
Partner at law firm BLM.
Responding to Workplace Incidents
An Article by Sally Hancock
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