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Does your HSE rep know how to secure the scene of a health and safety incident?

by , 20 February 2013
'At least 13 workers were wounded by rubber bullets or machetes in fighting at Amplats' Siphumelele mine following clashes between rival unions', on Monday, reports Fin24. With violent strike action becoming more and more common within the South African business landscape, there's every chance something similar could take place at your company one day. Here's what your HSE rep needs to do to secure the scene of an incident if there's a situation that threatens the health and safety of your employees.

'On Monday, 13 people were injured at the Siphumelele shaft at Amplats in a clash between security guards and workers,' North West police told Fin24 after the incident. 
'Some of the people were hacked with pangas and sharp objects, while others were shot with security rubber bullets,' reports Fin24.
That's worrying. After all, when most company's think about their company's health and safety precautions they only think about workplace accidents, they don't include violent clashes as part of their plans. 
But, according to the Occupational Health and Safety Act, an 'incident' is 'any event that happened but that should not have happened.

This term is used to describe the type of events where an employee suffers an injury or adverse health effect because of a workplace exposure'.
So as you can see, the definition includes any situation – including workplace accidents, fires, chemical spills, natural disaster and even violence if it threatens your employees' health and safety. 
If any of these situations take place in your office, you'll be responsible for keeping your employees safe and reporting the incident to the Department of Labour. 
But do you know what your HSE rep needs to do to comply with this requirement?
How to secure the scene of an incident
One of the first things your HSE rep needs to do when something goes wrong at your company is secure the incident scene, explains  The Health and Safety Advisor.

He'll need to do this to ensure:
  • No one else is injured or exposed to something that'll cause adverse health effects;
  • There is no additional damage to your product, service, equipment or property;
  • Other people (i.e. members of the public), their property or neighbouring businesses aren't harmed; and
  • Evidence that'll help you to determine the basic and root cause of the incident is protected. 
Obviously, what you need to do to secure the scene of the incident depends on the severity of the incident, says The Health and Safety Advisor
'Securing the [incident] scenemay require no more than a brief work stoppage in a small area while first aid is administered to an injured person. Alternatively, it may require the activation of your emergency response plan  for a serious event.'
In cases of violence, like the incident at Amplats, you'll need to secure the scene of the incident to protect evidence necessary for a criminal investigation.  
Bottom line:Securing the scene of an incident is the first step your HSE rep will take before launching a full health and safety investigation into why the incident occurred so you can prevent future incidents of this nature from taking place again. Make sure it's done correctly to ensure you stay on the right side of the law and that the investigation isn't hampered in any way. 
If you don't already have an HSE rep, then elect one now! Use our special E-report on How to appoint the best HSE representatives – your complete guide to get the best HSE representatives working for you!

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