I've been involved in incident response for over ten years and I have learned that the call can come at any point in the day. Usually, it's very early in the morning - the mobile ringing on the bedside cabinet pre-6am - or late in the day. It's not a job with "regular" hours.

If a major incident has occurred, involving a serious injury or fatality, then clients are likely to need boots on the ground quickly. So I down tools, collect my "grab bag" which contains my PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) to allow me to safely access whichever location I am bound for, together with essential information on the investigation that is about to commence with the police and regulator, and get on the road.

My job immediately after a major health & safety incident is to provide support and guidance to clients to ensure their legal rights are protected; that they understand what is happening and; to address the many questions that arise. However, what they usually need most at that time is someone with a calm approach, who can take control of the situation and help relieve some of the stress, remembering that a colleague, and often friend, has been seriously injured or died.

The scene is often chaotic on arrival, there may be emergency services, police and regulators in attendance. There may be witnesses who the police want to note statements from and there may be a physical scene/evidence which, if not already under police cordon, will have to be preserved.

After an initial meeting with the client's senior team on site, I co-ordinate their internal incident response and ensure that the police and regulator receive all information requested, assuming, under their statutory powers, they are entitled to it. Many businesses aren't aware that they don't always have to hand over everything which is asked for.

I will speak with the police and regulators to understand what they need from the business initially, and ascertain if they are taking any formal action against the business at this stage. I will discuss with them the next steps and try to agree on timescales to ensure that nothing is missed, and everyone has a clear understanding of the position.

Clients often want advice about how to deal with other employees, how to communicate with the family of the person involved in the incident, and how best to prepare any documentation that has been requested by the authorities and sometimes how/if they should respond publicly to the incident.

Once I have taken the management/directors through the initial legal brief and set up the procedures they will need to get through the regulatory investigation, I will start to assist in a fact-finding exercise to establish what has happened, how and why. I will speak to witnesses and help the business' internal departments organise further information that is likely to be required by the authorities as things progress.

When I leave site it can be very late in the day. I'm often chilled to the bone having spent a lot of time outside. A hot shower, cup of tea and I fall asleep on the sofa with Netflix running in the background.

For more information on this or other Health & Safety topics, contact me or look at our insight articles on the website.


Victoria Anderson

Senior Associate