How can we learn from an accident?

words: Simon Bloxham, Safety for Business

When an accident happens, we have to be able to investigate and learn from the failings. In 2017, three company directors were sentenced following the death of a man who fell while working on their site. So what is there to learn from something like this that sounds as far removed from what a funeral director does as you can get?

What can we learn?

The tragic case above involved a person who was untrained to carry out the work and had not been provided with any safety equipment. It meant the company responsible for the site were found guilty of offences. You cannot simply say it was someone else who was responsible. In this case the contractor was guilty of not having trained personnel and unacceptable health and safety standards for the project.

Don’t ever start something you aren’t competent to do. The organisation commissioning the work was also guilty of not procuring contractors that were capable for the task. If you are looking at contractors for a project at your site, you aren’t expected to be an expert at the task, but you are expected to use some due diligence and look for contractors who specialise in the work, not someone who can do it for the cheapest price.

What about ignoring advice?

If ever there was someone to take notice of, it’s the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), especially if the local authority is involved as well. Take whatever advice from the authorities you can get and act upon it.

You must make sure that those conducting the work are capable of the task. I would suggest you need to request evidence that they have done this type of work before and ask for risk assessments at the very least. Talk to them specifically about safety and if you’re concerned, speak to the authorities to see if they have any comments. If it does go wrong, you will need to provide sufficient evidence to the courts to say you did your best. Keep records of conversations, keep documentation and check the work as they start, as they work and as they finish off.

Risking safety for profit is just not worth it. If it’s the courts and jail time that makes you do it right fine, that’s your choice. For me it’s the fact that perhaps a wife and children aren’t ever going to see or speak to their husband or father again.

If it costs money by all means go for a cheaper quote but put the effort in to get a few quotes at least. And ask up front about safety.

Of course, if you need any help why not get in touch with me? SAIF members get free phone and email advice as part of the membership package. Why not make use of it?

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