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HSC: Employers should face compulsory incident investigations

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The Health and Safety Commission (HSC) launched a consultation on its proposal to introduce a compulsory duty for all companies and organisations to investigate all reportable work-related accidents, ill health or ‘near misses’ which could have resulted in serious injury.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) estimates that if every single reportable incident not at present investigated by employers was investigated and acted upon, this could save society up to £1.8 billion per year in preventable incidents, including £600 million to businesses.

The proposals – which would require an amendment to present health and safety law – would require employers to:


  • investigate all reportable incidents to find out how they happened and how they might be prevented in future;
  • keep a record that an investigation has been carried out and that its conclusions have been taken into account in revising the workplace risk assessment. Such records would be kept for a minimum of three years and could be subject to scrutiny by the HSE and its inspectors.

The consultation will also ask whether the proposed duty to investigate should be extended to non-reportable accidents, diseases and dangerous occurrences as well. The HSE would provide guidance on how to implement an effective investigations process.

HSC Chair Bill Callaghan said, “Accidents and ill-health in the workplace take a terrible toll, both in terms of economic cost and human suffering. Most work-related accidents and cases of ill-health are preventable. By investigating incidents, identifying the causes, and taking effective steps to remove those causes, employers can prevent repeat incidents and cut the human and financial cost dramatically.

“Employers have a duty to their staff to provide a working environment where risks are reduced to their minimum. Most responsible employers – both large and small – already have a system for investigating health and safety incidents and there can be no excuse from those who refuse to follow their example.”

Mr Callaghan concluded, “Investigation is a key part of an organisation’s health and safety management systems and should feed into a revision of the risk assessment process, as well as arrangements for planning, organising and monitoring workplace health and safety arrangements. I would like more employers to wake up to the fact that health and safety incident investigation – including ‘near misses’ – can provide a powerful mechanism for improving business performance.

“We would like a response to the consultation from as wide a range of stakeholders as possible, and in particular from small firms to ensure that we address their views.”

The closing date for comments on the consultation document is 3 September 2001. Copies of Proposals for a new duty to investigate accidents, dangerous occurrences and diseases (CD169) are available free from HSE Books, PO Box 1999, Sudbury, Suffolk, CO10 2WA.

The full text can be viewed and downloaded from the HSE website: www.hse.gov.uk/condocs

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