When a serious safety incident occurs in your workplace, what happens next is vital. Your workers need to understand safety protocols and have the capability to carry out a safety response plan that will attend to injured workers, secure the site and ensure the incident is correctly reported and communicated. When an incident occurs, however, there is a considerable amount of pressure to deal with all of these aspects. Do your staff know how to deal with a safety incident? Will they be able to prioritise? Do they know the steps that must be taken and how quickly they need to respond?

The Pressure for an Urgent Response

After a safety incident occurs, the response that happens within the following 48 hours is crucial. The way that an incident is dealt with can have a significant impact on workplace health and safety and your organisation’s legal risk. In the aftermath of a safety incident, there can be a lot of pressure and conflicting demands. Your staff will need to prioritise:

  • Ensuring medical treatment is administered
  • Securing the site and minimising safety risks
  • Providing support to workers and their families
  • Limiting disruption to business operations
  • Meeting reporting and regulatory obligations
  • Communicating with necessary parties
  • Managing the media response

With so much to consider, even seasoned safety professional can get side-tracked. Your safety practitioners will be the first point of contact for managers and your executive team, both relying on them for guidance and updates. So, it’s crucial that your business has a response plan in place and a team that knows how to implement it.

The 3 Steps to Responding to a Safety Incident

To help your staff respond quickly, effectively and efficiently in the unfortunate event of a serious incident, they need to be prepared. By having a plan in place, your staff are much less likely to get derailed by the many conflicting demands and can approach the incident in a considered manner. There are three key steps to responding to a safety incident:

1. Initiating the Response Plan

Your response plan should detail the team who will take action, with clear roles and responsibilities. To get the ball rolling, some initial communication is required, but it must be kept to a minimum. There is no time for speculation as to the cause of the incident, and all communications need to be mindful of legal exposure. What is vital, however, is that those at the site of the incident know which response plan to follow and have a copy to hand.

2. Managing the Health and Safety Response

When an incident occurs, the onsite response is critical to ensure workplace health and safety. The first step will, of course, be to attend to the medical needs of those involved. In the first instance, this will be first aiders who will make the call as to whether emergency services are required. Another considerable concern is a repeat incident, making it critical to secure the site as part of the immediate response. In fact, if, for example, someone is trapped under a structure, it is sometimes necessary to secure the site before medical attention can be given. The initial response will also include providing emotional support to workers who have witnessed the incident.

During the initial onsite response to a safety incident, your staff will also need to be aware of the need to retain evidence that may be required by the regulator. Someone should be responsible for taking notes of what takes place and recording the names of emergency services personnel who attend the site.

3. Reporting and Communicating the Incident

If the incident is notifiable, involving serious injury, illness or death or a dangerous incident, then the regulator will need to be notified. To categorise the incident as notifiable, your safety practitioners will need to review up-to-date legislation and possibly seek further advice where required. If an incident is deemed notifiable, your staff must contact the regulator immediately so an inspector can be sent to site. The purpose of an incident report is to detail only factual events, with care given that no admissions or assumptions are made.

As well as contacting the regulator, other communications will be required in the wake of a safety incident. These may include a carefully prepared media response, communications to WHS representatives and necessary information to internal staff. However, that is just the tip of the iceberg; your safety practitioners will also need to consider contacting stakeholders, legal advisors and unions to reduce the legal risk of the incident.

Determine Your Incident Response Process

Responding to safety incidents is a complicated undertaking with many competing priorities. And, to make it more complex, to keep your staff and business safe everything needs to be managed in a short time frame. By determining your incident response process and having the right tools and information at their fingertips, your staff will be much more prepared for what to do if an incident takes place. Not only will this help to ensure workplace health and safety, but it will also reduce the legal risk to your company. When it comes to a serious incident, you can’t risk being unprepared.

For over a decade, Conserve has helped organisations overcome contractor management challenges. We can help you develop a contractor management service that will be not only effective but will make your organisation safer, while minimising your overall risk. Request a demo now or visit the Conserve page for more great content.

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  1. Sarah Piper

    Incident responses need to be carried out swiftly and with the appropriate level of care and caution. This needs to be planned in advance and reviewed regularly for relevance. Nice read otherwise.


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