Deans of Colleges / Heads of Departments

What if something goes wrong?

If something was to happen within your College / Department the consequence on you, your colleagues and the University will vary dependent upon the nature and seriousness of the incident.

It is the responsibility of Health and Safety Services to report certain incidents and injuries which must be reported to the HSE, therefore ALL accidents and incidents must be reported to Health and Safety Services as soon as possible so this legal obligation can be met. 

Health and Safety Services may undertake an investigation but in all cases your own Safety Co-ordinator should investigate incidents so as to prevent a re-occurrence.  

HSE Involvement

If the HSE has taken an interest in, or is formally investigating an incident then contact with the HSE will normally be through Health and Safety Services and, where appropriate, University Solicitors. Health and Safety Services will explain to you and your staff what is happening, what may occur and will also ensure the University is cooperating fully with the Inspectors. Obstructing an HSE Inspector or an investigation is a criminal offence.

As a Dean of College / Head of Department you may be interviewed by the HSE Inspector(s); this can be as a 'witness' to an event (you need not have actually seen the event to be a witness as you may be a 'witness' to how systems were implemented and h&s is being managed), what control systems were in place and how safety was / is being managed etc. From this interview a witness statement will be agreed and signed by you. 

However, if the Inspector(s) think you may be implicated in the incident they may interview you and anybody else (including members of Council and the VC etc) under 'caution' as a suspect - per the Police and Criminal Evidence Act.

An interview 'under caution' is similar to a Police interview, where you will be read your rights and the interview, in most cases, is tape recorded, etc. In such circumstances the University will provide, if you require, a Solicitor to accompany you. Please note that such interviews are rare and normally only occur following serious incidents and where a person is thought to be directly implicated in the cause of the incident.

The HSE will decide, sometimes in liaison with the Crown Prosecution Service, whether to prosecute or whether other sanctions are appropriate; such as issuing an Improvement Notice, Prohibition Notice or a formal caution or warning. They (HSE) may even withdraw all together if they feel satisfied with your systems, controls and actions.

Police Involvement

Police involvement is rare but if the incident is serious enough (mainly deaths, violence or road traffic) the Police will often take the lead in an investigation and work closely with the HSE if the incident is work or University related. Formal contact and liaison with the Police will normally be through the Registrar's Office, however the Police may contact and interview witnesses and suspects without notifying you or the University. 

Again, where there is Police involvement the University will provide a Solicitor for those members of staff  being interviewed or investigated.

Press and Public Enquiries

All dealings with members of the Press and Public should be directed through the Director of Public Relations and / or his staff. 

Civil Claims

When a member of staff, student or member of the public is suing the University for compensation the matter will be handled through the University Insurance Officer, based in the Finance Department. 

In such circumstances you will be required to provide copies of all paperwork relating to the incident as soon as possible as all paperwork must legally be provided within a definite timescale. Failure to disclose any applicable documentation is an offence and may prejudice a defence against the compensation claim.

HSE Reportable Accidents and Incidents

Most accidents and incidents reported to the HSE will be investigated further by Health and Safety Services. This may be in the form of a site inspection and interviewing witnesses or through a desk top assessment of relevant paperwork. Where appropriate a report will be produced on such incidents which will be provided to the HSE upon request.

All Accidents and Incidents

All accidents and incidents must be investigated by you or your staff and where required improvements implemented to prevent similar incidents from re- occurring. Where an HSE Investigation is imminent the College / Departmental Investigation will be held in abeyance until otherwise directed by Health and Safety Services.

We must all learn from incidents to understand what went wrong and why - true causation is often found beyond the obvious and may be an indicator of a wider issue.  This is why it is imperative you forward copies of all your College / Departmental accident / incident investigation reports to Health and Safety Services.