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05 Oct 2020
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Accident Reporting and Investigation

Every employer is morally, legally and financially obliged to ensure that their workplace is as safe as reasonably practicable.  However, despite robust management systems, accidents do sometimes occur.

What should you do if there is an accident? How should you investigate the incident and what should be reported and to whom?

What is an accident?

An accident and a near miss have very different meanings, however they are both unplanned and unexpected events.

  • An accident is an event that results in injury or loss,
  • A near miss is where, whilst there was no harm, the event highlighted the potential for a negative outcome in the future.

For some significant incidents, an investigation may be required to focus on the failure of the current control systems that led to the accident or near miss occurring.  Less serious incidents and near misses should not be dismissed, as in many cases, the fact that there has not been injury or loss is purely as a result of good fortune rather than any robust control measures.

Should an accident occur, it is important to carry out a robust investigation to understand any underlying cause and to see if it can be prevented in future.

Accidents can be extremely expensive.

There are a range of costs that can result after an accident, such as:

  • The downtime of the injured person and bringing in temporary cover;
  • Losses in equipment, plant or property damage;
  • Insurance premiums can be negatively affected;
  • If the incident involves the HSE, they can charge you £159 per hour under the fees for intervention regulations;
  • Recent Sentencing Guidelines for the courts have significantly increased the level of fines; and
  • A civil claim may be brought against an organisation.

Accident Investigation

Preserving the scene is paramount to ensure that evidence gathering can take place.  In order to do this taking lots of photographs can be very useful.

There may be numerous pieces of evidence present, so the fewer people permitted into the area, the more chance of preserving the evidence.

The enforcing authorities may close the scene themselves to prevent further danger and to ensure that evidence is gathered.  Therefore, it is advisable to have a procedure for the control of accident scenes built in to the accident investigation process.

Reporting

The reporting of an accident should follow a systematic model:

  • The accident should be reported internally to supervisors and managers to ensure that any employees involved are identified;
  • For some accidents, they will need to be reported to the HSE. This falls under the Reporting of Injuries, Disease and Dangerous Occurrence Regulations (RIDDOR);
  • Business’ insurers must be informed of any accident that may result in potential claims; and
  • Communication between the business and the family of any injured party must be handled in a structured way.

All the steps of reporting should be included in the accident investigation process and fully recorded to explain who did what and when.

Starting the Investigation

The next stage is to assemble a suitable investigation team.  The size and composition of the team is likely to be different for every accident, however, the following individuals may need to be considered:

  • The injured party or witnesses to the accident that may be able to give a detailed account of what has happened;
  • Someone familiar with the workplace in which the accident occurred;
  • The manager or supervisor of the department in which the accident occurred;
  • Safety Representatives should be present as they hold knowledge of the working environment;
  • A member of the HR team to ensure that the investigation proceeds in a manner conducive with the rights of employees;
  • A health and safety expert to offer understanding and application of health and safety control;
  • A senior management representative who has authority to make decisions; and
  • A technical expert to discuss any equipment, substance or process that may have contributed to the accident.

Gathering Evidence

After the investigation team has been set up they will then need to start the process of gathering information.  This will include:

  • Physical evidence, such as debris, marks left on the ground or indeed the location of the injured person;
  • Human evidence will be required, this will include statements from the injured party and witnesses; and
  • Documentary evidence, this type of evidence may include the risk assessments and safe systems of work.

Finally

Once the investigation has concluded, it is important to share the findings with employees and those involved in the accident.  Also, it may be that risk assessments need to be reviewed or additional training may be required.

It is vital to have a plan in place before an accident happens, so that, if one does, everyone knows what to do.

How can Pragma help?

Dealing with an accident can be very daunting and if you would like us to help, please get in touch with us at davidpaveley@pragmaandassociates.co.uk

If you would like to find out more about our services, please see here.

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