Accidents by their very nature can and do happen, however there are courses of action that you can follow to reduce the likelihood of them occurring as well as recommendations that you should follow if they do.
There are two very practical issues that business owners face: (i) managing the situation and those involved, and (ii) protecting the brand and/or business reputation.
When an accident happens, first you'll be judged on how you handle the situation before anyone looks at the root cause, that's why from both a practical and PR point of view, employers should be ready to act if the worst happens.
When things go wrong in a workplace, it's very easy to panic no matter how big or small the accident or incident. It's for this very reason that premises do, or at least should, take the time to practice a fire drill, so if the worst happens, it should be second nature. To that end, what other accidents or incidents do we actually practice for? For most businesses – none.
The one thing that holds your procedure together is a list of considerations and actions that, in the event of an accident or incident, you can refer to with an even pulse and subsequently, behave in the best interests of all parties involved.
Here’s a list of top tips:
- Certain dangerous occurrences are reportable to the HSE - you will commit an offence if you do not report them
- Accidents should be investigated
- Keep records of accidents and the investigations that are carried out
- Documents may need to be released for court cases
- Make sure that you have all of your health and safety documents up to date
- Customers are more likely to try to sue for injuries or trauma - you will have a good defence if you have proper systems in place
- Monitor near misses as well as accidents which cause injury
- Analyse your statistics - why do accidents happen, where and how often?
- Prevention is far better than cure - act on the information which the accident investigation produces - take steps to change procedures or premises layout especially if it will reduce future accidents
- Nominate someone to speak on behalf of the company if you have a fatality or severe accident with multiple injuries. You will want to control what is said to the media and press.
It can never be too soon to take accident and incident management seriously, but it can be too late. More information can be found on the HSE website.
Pat Perry is chairman at health and safety consultants Perry Scott Nash.