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Responding to Serious Accidents and Dangerous Occurrences in the Workplace | Tom McNeill © BCL Solicitors

​When a worker in the U.K. or member of the public is killed or seriously injured, or there is a dangerous occurrence in the workplace, there is frequently a criminal regulatory investigation that could result in organizations and directors, managers or others being prosecuted.

Most organizations recognize the importance of their safety responsibilities and will be keen to cooperate with the enforcing authority, to conduct their own investigation in relation to why the system failed, and where appropriate to improve the safe system of work. Organizations will, however, also want to protect against the risk of prosecution and other regulatory risks. These goals can be pursued simultaneously.

The detail of how cooperation is provided, for example, may be enormously important to the final outcome. Handing over voluminous records for the enforcing authority to review is one approach. Another is to properly investigate so as to fully understand the systems in place, both documented and undocumented, and effectively explain systems to the enforcing authority when providing copies of relevant records.

Similarly, making “improvements” before fully understanding the safe system of work, and if appropriate seeking expert views in relation to complex systems or plant, could miss the point or even lead to the introduction of new risks that do not improve safety, while undermining the existing safe system of work. In contrast, appropriate and effective remediation may in the right…

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