“Plan for an accident? Why ever should I do that?”
by Andy Farrall
In my previous article, “Health & Safety law just ain’t fair!” , I pointed out that UK health & safety law is sometimes biased against employers, and so it’s vital that companies have an accident management strategy in place before the accident happens.
In this article I want to look at some of the topics which I believe should be considered when companies are developing this strategy.
There are many issues which management will need to consider when investigating serious accidents, and these include – in no particular order of importance – questions such as:
Who will actually run the investigation?
The obvious answer would seem to be “the manager” but is that really the best solution? What will happen, for example, if the accident was actually due to that manager’s incompetence? Is he (or she) going to conduct an unbiased investigation and then put himself on the gallows with a brave smile – or is he more likely to lie through his teeth and blame somebody else?
And even when the manager is innocent, are you not putting him in an impossible situation? Whatever the outcome, no matter how scrupulous and diligent he is, he still leaves himself open to malicious gossip implying that he manipulated the investigation to protect himself. He just can’t win!
How will you control the investigation budget?
The initial response to this question may well be: “Why do we need a budget?” so let me pose a hypothetical question.
Assume that the accident involved a forklift truck which had just been serviced by the dealer, and assume also that the driver alleged that the brakes failed.
Who will you ask to conduct an independent inspection of the braking system?
You can’t ask the dealer because they have a vested interest in finding the brakes to be perfect. Furthermore, no matter how honest their inspection is in practice, they may still have left themselves open to allegations that they distorted their findings. It’s the same argument as that regarding the use of internal managers which I outlined above.
Can the company use its own maintenance people to check the forklift? No, of course not, because they will also be perceived to have a vested interest in the findings.
The solution is to employ an external consultant engineer to check the brakes. He’ll give an honest answer but his services will come at a cost, a potential expense which must be considered beforehand as part of the accident management budget.
The above are just samples of the many topics which need to be considered. Such planning may seem at first to be a little over the top, but, then again, you already plan for unlikely events such as fire evacuations and computer failure don’t you? Well, don’t you??
About the author:
Andy has his own health & safety practice, Management & Safety Training Ltd, which in turn has its own specialist industrial accident investigation division, iNDAXCON. He is a highly experienced and internationally qualified investigator, consultant and trainer, qualified in both the health & safety and training sectors.
A Fellow of the International Institute of Risk and Safety Management, a chartered safety & health practitioner (chartered both with IOSH in the UK and SIA in Australia) and a member of the UK Occupational Safety & Health Consultants Register (OSHCR), he has a proven track record in fields as diverse as accident investigation, lone worker safety, construction safety, and health & safety training.
Previously a specialist investigator with two élite UK law enforcement agencies (including responsibility for the management of complex international fraud enquiries) he became an accredited security trainer and assessor with the City of Bristol College. His move into the health & safety sector has included a wide range of training/ consultancy projects.