It is the moment every employer in the manufacturing industry dreads – a manager reports that racking has collapsed, a forklift has overturned or that there has been a fall in the loading area and a worker has been seriously injured. What happens next could have a major impact on the future of your business, so it is vital that you get it right.
And that means being prepared. Having a well thought out emergency response strategy will ensure that incidents are handled as efficiently as possible and potential damage, in terms of financial losses and reputation, is kept to a minimum. It will also help you uncover what went wrong and prevent similar occurrences in the future.
1. Plan your response...
The first step in developing an accident response strategy is to decide what it needs to cover – for example, what needs to be done, when and by whom; who needs to be told what information; what support should be provided to employees and their families; how you might limit your legal liabilities, and so on.
The next stage is to start assigning specific tasks and roles. This should include deciding who will be in charge and who else will have the authority to make decisions, as well as who will handle matters such as:
- First aid
- Dealing with internal and external investigations, insurers and lawyers
- Staff communications and PR
- Family liaison
As speed is essential, emergency contact details should be included for everyone involved, along with numbers for the company's legal representatives, insurers and health and safety professionals. Southalls clients can access all this information, as well as next of kin details, instantly via Safety Cloud.
The plan should also include advice on:
- Securing the scene
- Reporting the accident
- Organising an internal investigation
- Supporting witnesses
- Informing insurers and taking legal advice
- Keeping workers and next of kin informed
2...and practise it!
A response plan that sits on a computer unused until a real-life emergency is not going to be as effective as one that has been practised, tested and revised – and that means role play exercises. Rehearsing your plan using realistic scenarios will help staff to understand their roles, enable improvements to be made and ensure that events run more smoothly in an actual crisis.
3. Manage the immediate aftermath
Accidents at work resulting in serious injury or death must be reported to the HSE under the terms of the Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations 2013 (RIDDOR). Reports must be made by employers or other “responsible persons“ within defined timescales and can be submitted online at hse.gov.uk. Southalls clients will have RIDDOR reporting completed on their behalf via Safety Cloud. You should also obtain legal advice, inform your insurers and start an internal investigation at an early stage. This may be a good time to consider bringing in a health and safety professional with investigation and enforcement expertise to manage the incident.
An internal investigation can be run alongside any external investigation and is important because it will help you uncover what really happened and how you can update your safety measures. It can also provide useful information for insurers and show a court that you take your health and safety responsibilities seriously.
As a first step, the accident scene should be secured, photographs and measurements taken and any CCTV footage obtained. Your investigators should then pursue all reasonable lines of enquiry, including employee interviews, to create an accurate account of what happened. Be aware that you may be required to disclose this information to a court but do not let this put you off investigating thoroughly.
- PACE interviews
As part of formal investigations, directors, managers and employees may be interviewed by the HSE inspector under caution – known as a PACE (Police and Criminal Evidence Act) interview. This means that any disclosures may be used as evidence in related criminal proceedings. You are not obliged to attend and we recommend you seek our advice or legal advice prior to attending. Staff involved in an investigation should be kept informed about its progress as far as reasonably possible.
- Dealing with paperwork
Documents may need to be checked as part of the investigations so you will need to make someone responsible for ensuring the correct paperwork is provided at the appropriate time. This will be much easier for companies that use specialist health and safety software such as Safety Cloud, which stores all the relevant information in one place – including accident logs, photo evidence, historical equipment checks and training records.
- Keeping the business running
In cases where HSE believes a company has been breaking the law, inspectors may issue an improvement notice, which gives you 21 days to resolve the problem, or a prohibition notice, which prevents an activity until it has been made safe. They may also give written or verbal advice.
If the worst should occur and operations are closed down, seek the advice of professional health and safety advisers as soon as possible on how you can get up and running again.
3. Prepare for the worst: Emergency training
All staff should have fire and emergency training so they know what to do in the event of an incident. This can usually be conducted online to avoid disruption. You should also have at least one trained first-aider and one trained fire warden on site. These should be competent people – that is, employees with the skills, knowledge and experience to take responsibility for these duties.
To discover how Southalls can transform safety standards across your business, book a free consultation with one of our sector specialists.