No matter what precautions you may take, or what procedures you may have in place, the possibility of a serious accident at work can never be ruled out. In such an event, an investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) would inevitably follow with the possibility of a prosecution under Health and Safety laws which carry unlimited fines and, the power to impose a prison sentence. It is vital, therefore, that you seek legal advice right from the outset.
Health and Safety Inspectors may be on the scene very quickly and they have wide ranging powers to investigate and to interview potential witnesses. If an offence is proved, a court will reduce any sentence if it can be shown that there was a prompt acceptance of responsibility by the offender, that there was a high level of co-operation with the investigation beyond that which would always be expected and that there had been genuine efforts to remedy any defects. Before this, however, you will need to establish what went wrong, independently of the HSE, to know whether it is right to be accepting responsibility.
A lawyer, promptly instructed, can manage your internal investigation and ensure that relevant reliable evidence is obtained to enable you to promptly and appropriately respond to the HSE’s own investigation which may include interviews under caution with or without police involvement, and access to documentation not subject to legal professional privilege.
Remember, therefore, that your first call should be for an ambulance, and your second for a lawyer.