Accident Reporting and Investigation
Even if no one has been injured in an accident - you should always report it. Next time might be more serious!

Accident Reporting and Investigation

Reporting of Accidents, Near Misses and Dangerous Occurrences

Accident reporting is one of the most important actions in making the workplace safer. A proper report can provide -

  • A document that can be used in court as evidence of an injury to a person involved in the accident
  • A document that can be used in court to show that the employer was aware of a risk if there is another similar accident at a later date
  • The opportunity to carry out an investigation that makes recommendations for safety improvements
  • An opportunity to review the risk assessment
  • An opportunity to review the suitability of equipment, training and safe working practices

In most workplaces there should be at least one report of an accident, near miss or dangerous occurence per year (on average) per employee. In actual fact, there are typically many more events that justify making such reports, but anything less than this is usually a sign of a poor reporting culture - which can be due to apathy or fear of submitting reports. Such fear is sometimes because of "blame cultures" in the workplace that discourage reporting, but do little to reduce the likelihood of future accidents.

No employee should have to fear being reprimanded for reporting an accident - even if they were partly at fault. The Health and Safety Executive estimate that 70% of accidents are due to management failures. But management are often ignorant of the risks on the front line and reliant on staff bringing dangerous circumstances to their attention. How can there be a "suitable and sufficient" risk assessment if not all the risks are understood by the "competant person" appointed to carry it out? This alone justifies the H&S rep being involved in all accident investigations and risk assessments. 

Certin types of incident must be reported by law.  RIDDOR (the Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations) requires certain incidents to be brought to the attention of the HSE. Examples might include -

  • Injuries resulting in more than 3 days off sick from work. Stress does not automatically qualify, but "shock and trauma caused by work related stress" is a qualifying condition - so reps should try and include this phrase in a written communication to management if a member is suffering from that type of stress
  • Communicable and contagious diseases - not the common cold, but avian flu or legionaires disease would probably qualify
  • Incidents that could result in the loss of a body part, sight or another sense, multiple fractures or injuries to multiple persons are the sort of things that are covered under the Dangerous Occurences part of the regulation

The HSE lists specific items on its web site - but the golden rule is - IF IN DOUBT. REPORT IT!

IMPORTANT NOTE - The HSE is proposing to increase the time off work due to an industrial injury or disease from 3 days to 7 before an employer is legally required to report it. The HLC encourages all branches to view and complete the consulation document, hold motions or forward concerns to the TUC. Links to the consultation document can be found at the TUC website at www.tuc.org.uk/workplace/tuc-19099-f0.cfm#tuc-19099-2


Accident Investigation

The regulations on accident investigation are a little less specific. The trade union position is that a Health and Safety representative should always be involved in accident investigations. However, it is not unusual for a manager to complete an accident investigation without even making the H&S rep aware that there has been an accident. The management argument usually goes along the line "I couldn't tell the rep because it would breach the Data Protection Act/breach confidentiality/the rep wasn't on shift" etc. etc. etc.

Now this is utter bullshit. All workers are entitled to information relevant to their safety at work - and an accident involving one of their colleagues carrying out the same job is very relevant. If management dispute your right (as a H&S rep) to be consulted - walk them over to your official Health and Safety at Work poster from the HSE (which must be prominently displayed in all workplaces by law) and point at the bit that refers to Statutory Instrument 1513 from 1996. If you haven't got one of these posters then ask your manager why not or contact the HSE if you don't have any joy.

Why we need Health and Safety Laws

Health and Safety Laws, Regulations and Codes of Practice