Employee fatalities: how to handle the unthinkable

Employee fatalities are something no business owner wants to even think about. But, sadly, they happen.

In 2017/18 alone, 144 employees lost their lives at work, and the main causes behind the catastrophes were:

  • Falling from height (35)
  • Being struck by a moving vehicle (26)
  • Being struck by a moving object (23)
  • Being trapped by something collapsing or overturning (16)
  • Contact with moving machinery (13).

So, what do you do when the unthinkable happens?

  1. Take control – Make sure you protect and retain the scene in the exact same state it was in when the fatality occurred, ensure you have first aiders in attendance, and call the emergency services right away.
  2. Notify the police – The police must always be informed about work-related deaths. When they arrive at the scene, clearly and accurately let them know what happened, when it happened, and where it happened.
  3. Contact the enforcing authority – In most cases, the enforcing authority will be either the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), your Local Authority, or the Office of Road and Rail (ORR). As soon as is reasonably possible, you must establish contact with them and inform them of what’s happened. It’s absolutely imperative that you’re open and honest during any discussions with the police and enforcing authorities. Downplaying what happened will only hinder your case in the long run.
  4. Inform the family – Once you’ve spoken to the police and enforcing authority, you should make contact with the individual’s family and carefully and sensitively tell them the news. Remember to keep the family in the loop as investigations unravel, too.
  5. The investigation process
    • After all the conversations have been had, you should turn your attention to the investigation process, which includes things like:
    • Gathering witness statements;
    • Taking photos;
    • Collecting CCTV footage;
    • Reviewing relevant risk assessments and procedures; and
    • Completing a RIDDOR report.
  6. Call Citation – If you’re signed up to our services, you should give us a call at this point. We can support you with advice and guidance around the accident investigation process, as well as help dealing with enforcing authorities.
  7. Seek a solicitor – The penultimate point is instructing a regulatory solicitor. They’ll be able to help you when it comes to liaising with the police and enforcing authorities.
  8. Contact your insurance company – Last but not least, you’ll need to contact your insurance company. Although it’ll be the last thing on your mind at the time, they need to be in the know for the financial side of things.

Want to learn more about how we can support you? Check out our Health & Safety Policies page, or get in touch with our Health & Safety consultants today.

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Although we hope you’ll never need the advice outlined in this article, if you do, we’re here for you. If you’re a Citation client, remember, we’re available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, with our advice line.

If you’re not yet teamed up with us and would like to know more, then get in touch with the team on 0345 844 1111 or use the form above.


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