How to respond to workplace incidents

How to respond to workplace incidents

Workplace incidents happen every day. According to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), estimates based on the Labour Force Survey indicate there were 0.6m non-fatal injuries to workers in the UK in 2017/18 and employers reported 71,062 non-fatal injuries as RIDDOR incidents in the same period.

Here at ProGARM, we believe that there are a number of steps you can take to reduce the risk of workplace incidents and that protective safety clothing and other PPE items provide an essential last line of defence to save lives and reduce the risk and severity of injuries. Read more about how to assess and reduce the risk of hazards in our article on the hierarchy of control.

In this article, we explore some of the steps you should consider when responding to an incident.

Responding to hazards and near-miss reports

To change workplace attitudes to health, safety and wellbeing and to improve the safety culture requires managing how you respond to reports of hazards and near misses from your employees.

There’s been speculation over the years about whether there’s a direct relationship between the numbers of near misses and injury incidents reported.

But, while it’s convenient to believe that encouraging near-miss reporting will directly lead to fewer injury incidents, the suggested correlation has yet to be proven. It also rarely pays to encourage reporting of hazards and near misses purely for reporting and statistical analysis purposes.

However, there’s still merit in encouraging such reports. Actively engaging your colleagues in the conversation about safety by encouraging them to identify and speak up about potential risks (hazards) and events which could have caused harm but didn’t (near misses) can help to foster a collective understanding that safety is everyone’s responsibility.

And if employees see you acting on the concerns and issues they raise and, crucially, taking steps to remove risks and prevent a recurrence, they’re far more likely to engage positively with your safety policies and method statements.

Responding to incidents

Where an incident has occurred, it’s vital that you follow the correct procedures to make sure anyone injured receives the appropriate medical attention, the situation is made safe and that you’ve secured the area if needed.

It’s essential that you follow your company’s incident response plan to make sure the situation stays under control while it goes through any investigation proceedings. (If you don’t have an incident response plan, we’d recommend developing one as soon as possible.)

It’s a good idea to take time-stamped digital photographs of the scene and speak to any witnesses to gather initial accounts of what happened. Investigations can be lengthy and getting this information as soon as possible can be extremely helpful later.

You can also start pulling together evidence of your safety training records and your policies, procedures, risk assessments and method statements as these are likely be requested as any external incident investigations get underway. Reviewing these yourself can also help you identify any gaps in your procedures which may have led to the incident occurring.

Due to the nature of electrical incidents, and certainly Arc Flash events, it’s likely that most incidents will need to be reported to the HSE even if there’s been no injury.

When any incident occurs, always consult qualified and experienced safety advisers for guidance on the steps you need to take to be legally compliant.

You should also work closely with your legal advisers and your communications team or a specialist crisis communications consultant to help you co-ordinate your internal communications and minimise reputational damage externally through effective media engagement.

They will also make sure you don’t inadvertently share privileged information which could jeopardise your legal position.

Prevention is better than a cure

You’re significantly less likely to face prosecution following an incident if you can clearly demonstrate that you’ve taken all reasonable steps to conduct your business in a safe and responsible way.

Providing your teams with the appropriate training, tools and best possible PPE appropriate to their role and task will reduce the likelihood of an incident happening and minimise the risk of injury or fatality from any accidents that do still occur.

For more information about our wide range of ProGARM Arc Flash protective clothing which can be the last line of defence in workplace incidents, contact us on +44 (0) 1482 679600 and speak to one of our safety wear specialists.