01 Have a plan in place
Major accidents on site are thankfully extremely rare. But because they are so rare companies aren’t always sure how to handle the situation. Someone should be nominated to be the “lead” and be prepared and briefed on what to do. How an organisation handles an event within the first few hours and days will impact upon its reputation – handle it effectively and reputation will be enhanced, handle it badly and suffer the consequences.
02 Involve your insurance company as early as possible
Once the emergency services have left the site, and the HSE have been advised of the accident, what do you do next? The answer is to call your insurance company. Whereas most people only deal with these incidents once in their lifetime, insurance companies deal with these events regularly and have the services and structures in place to provide valuable guidance and lend real assistance. All insurance companies provide support for policyholders, although the extent and nature varies significantly from company to company, and depends upon the circumstances.
03 Don’t treat the press as the enemy
If the event is serious enough, it is likely that there will be media interest with local or national journalists turning up on site to photograph the incident and get whatever interviews they can. The media should not be viewed as the enemy, they are simply doing their job, so they should be treated with respect and courtesy, and not fobbed off with “No comment”.
The best approach is an open one, making allowances for the media interest, which may or may not be handled by the main contractor. Decide what position you are going to take, which will be a limited one considering the impending HSE investigation.
04 Never speculate as to what caused the accident
Answer factual questions, and if you don’t know something, say so, but be sure to find out and go back to that journalist with the information later. Never speculate or comment on the causes of the incident. Alternatively, prepare a statement and issue it to the media.
05 Get some help
If necessary, employ a public relations firm to handle the media on your behalf. Some insurance policies include cover for employing a public relations firm to do this on behalf of the policyholder.
By Lee Hudson, regional underwriting manager at insurance firm Hiscox