Watch out – it’s a Safety Alert
Whenever your organisation is involved in a serious incident, there is a push to find out what went wrong – and then communicate the learnings internally.
The Safety Alert is the perfect tool to use, but there are some traps to watch out for if the matter is likely to end up in litigation.
What is a Safety Alert?
A Safety Alert is generally a one- or two-page document that alerts others to a safety incident, the known causes of the incident and what steps they need to take to prevent a similar incident happening to them. A Safety Alert is intended to get wide distribution and not be confidential.
A Safety Alert is basically a public document that will be available to a safety regulator or a claimant in any future litigation. A bit like posting something on the internet, you should assume that whatever you put in the Safety Alert will be produced in any future litigation.
This fact means that the Safety Alert should not, where possible, provide any conclusive statement about the cause of the incident, particularly if an investigation is ongoing.
Tips for preparing a Safety Alert
- Describe the circumstances of the incident in clear and neutral language. A photo says a thousand words and is a good way to limit how much narrative you need to include in the document.
- Do not speculate on the causes of the incident.
- Avoid listing deficiencies in the organisation’s system that may have caused, or are related to, the incident. It is unhelpful to say in writing that workers could be better trained. It is more helpful to say that workers will be retrained in the systems of work.
- Identify any interim action being taken pending the outcome of the investigation.
- If it is necessary to communicate a potential deficiency in the organisation’s system, ensure you communicate this view as preliminary and subject to the outcome of an investigation.
The same principles also apply to the preparation of any incident report or other written communication that you may be required to provide under the terms of a supplier contract.
If in doubt, you may also wish to seek legal advice before the document is distributed.
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