The 8 Essentials of an Incident Response Plan

Anyone who has ever had the misfortune to have a fatality occur in your workplace knows what a profound effect the experience has on everyone in the organization.

As you grieve the loss of a colleague, it can be helpful to rely on an incident response plan. Its guidelines can help you through a sad and unfamiliar experience. Here are some suggestions from safety professional John Riehs on how to create such a plan.

Before you start preparing your plan, Riehs suggests you contact the law enforcement and coroner’s office in your district. This will ensure that your procedures are kept within local law requirements.

In general, these are the eight things a plan should address:

1. Notification Procedures
Develop a formal method of communicating to ensure that all pertinent departments are notified of an incident. This procedure should specify:

• The names/positions and contact information of those to be notified;
• When they must be notified, listed in order of priority; and
• The person or position responsible for making contact.

2. A Victim Services Team
Consisting of personnel within the company, this team should be responsible for coordinating:

• Notifying the victim’s family;
• Locating the hospital;
• Transporting the family;
• Handling the victim’s personal effects, such as wallet, purse, jewellery, tools, automobile, etc.;
• Procuring critical incident stress services or counselling for co-workers; and
• Notifying the company’s human resources department and initiating procedures regarding dispersal of the final pay check and emergency assistance plans.

It’s important that the family be notified quickly. In small towns, some police reports are still broadcasted over scanners. It’s also important to specify in your plan that a company representative should stay with the family until other personal support, such as clergy or relative, arrives.

3. Medical Waste Management
Outline procedures for handling any medical waste in accordance with federal and state regulations. Many states have regulations regarding the correct disposal of medical waste. In some cases, industrial sites fall under a different set of regulations than other businesses. To be sure your procedure is correct, Riehs suggests you contact your:

• Local health department;
• Local environmental agency;
• Coroner’s office; or
• Local large hospital.

4. Communicating with the Media
In addition to the notification list, work with your public relations staff to determine how, when and by whom information is communicated to the media.

5. Incident Investigation
The company should initiate a formal review of the incident. This investigation should be conducted by someone other than management and the victim’s co-workers. Be sure to notify the family before communicating the investigation results to employees.

6. Privacy Issues
Employees will want to ensure the victim’s family will be financially provided for. They may even want to start a fund drive. Do not breach confidentiality by discussing, for instance, what benefits the employee had and did not have.

7. The Funeral
If a funeral is involved, make decisions early about:

• Who will and will not attend;
• Whether time attending the funeral counts as vacation time; and
• Whether to hire a bus or van or otherwise provide for group transportation. This can increase safety and aid the grieving process by bringing all participants together as a group.

8. Grieving
It is important to take care of your employees while they’re grieving. You can do this by:

• Holding an employee counselling or debriefing session;
• Reorganizing workloads for employees impacted at the jobsite so they have “light duty” or non-safety-sensitive work to do;
• Allowing employees to go home early, if they wish;
• Creating a “buddy system” at the workplace for several days;
• Assigning teams to work together. This not only helps with grief, it also improves safety.

The serious injury or death of a co-worker can be a traumatic and emotional event for employees. Having an incident response plan in place can be a valuable asset. It not only prevents embarrassing public relations situations for a company, but it also provides aid and comfort to your employees and to the family of the victim.

No matter how hard you try to prevent them, workplace incidents do occur. And when they occur, you need properly trained investigators to identify root causes and take corrective actions. Are your incident investigators properly trained?

The 8 Essentials of an Incident Response Plan

Dealing with Fatigue

Two Australian studies compared the impairment caused by alcohol consumption with
the impairment caused by mental fatigue from being awake for long hours. They gave a
group of subjects cognitive and reaction tests after consuming varying amounts of
alcohol. To no one’s surprise, the more alcohol the subjects consumed, the worse their
reaction times and cognitive abilities. That is why we have drinking and driving laws.
Most jurisdictions set a limit of .08 per cent blood alcohol level for drinking and driving.
The Australian researchers gave subjects the same cognitive and reaction tests, but
instead of giving them alcohol, they kept them awake for long hours. They then
compared test scores. What they found was that individuals who had been awake for 17
straight hours had the same mental abilities and reaction times as individuals who had a
.05 per cent blood alcohol level. Individuals that had been awake for 21 hours had the
same scores as those with .08 per cent blood alcohol level, and those that had been awake
for 24 hours had the same scores as those with 10 per cent blood alcohol.
This research is widely accepted and has been taken into account in a recent New Jersey
law called Maggie’s Law. This law makes it a criminal offence to drive after being
awake for more than 24 hours. Being awake for more than 24 hours is treated the same
as being legally drunk.
Source: Pat Byrne,

Dealing with Fatigue

Dehydration has same impact on road safety as drink-driving

Published time: April 18, 2015 19:13
Edited time: April 19, 2015 04:33
Reuters / Russell Cheyne
A new study has found that drivers who are dehydrated can be as dangerous as those who are drunk or on drugs. Participants made twice as many mistakes as those who were hydrated.
The study which was led by Professor Ron Maughan, from Loughborough University and was published in the journal Physiology and Behavior, showed that drivers who drank only 25 ml of water an hour made more than twice the number of mistakes as drivers who had drunk enough water, The Telegraph reported.
“We all deplore drink driving, but we don’t usually think about the effects of other things that affect our driving skills, and one of those is not drinking and dehydration. There is no question that driving while incapable through drink or drugs increases the risk of accidents, but our findings highlight an unrecognized danger and suggest that drivers should be encouraged to make sure they are properly hydrated,” said Professor Maughan.
The researchers carried out a number of tests using a driving simulator in a laboratory. Over two days each volunteer would spend one day in the simulator while hydrated – where they were provided with 200ml of water every hour – while the other day they would be dehydrated and given just 25ml.
The driving tasks in the simulator included two hours of monotonous motorway driving, with bends, and simulated rubble strips as well as slow moving vehicles that had to be overtaken.
When they were dehydrated the drivers would make far more mistakes, such as late braking, lane drifting, crossing rumble strips inadvertently. In total, drivers made 101 mistakes when they were dehydrated compared to 47 when they were normally hydrated.
68 percent of all vehicle crashes in the UK are due to driver error, so dehydration can be a major cause of accidents. As well as producing symptoms of headache and fatigue it can also result in lack of the ability to concentrate as well as loss of alertness and short term memory.

Dehydration has same impact on road safety as drink-driving

Workers Injured in Tank Explosions

Description of Incident:

tank explosions that resulted in worker injuries

In both instances, the manway doors were being removed to complete required tank maintenance and repairs. Site hazard assessments were completed by the supervisors in charge of the activity and identified the potential for an explosive atmosphere as one of the hazards. While opening the manway door, the workers removed the top half of a 2-part manway door and set it to the side. While workers were removing the bottom half of the door, the electric impact wrench they were using ignited the hydrocarbon fumes that were coming from inside the tank. The workers injured in these incidents sustained first and second degree burns.

Fire and Explosion Analysis: The key elements of the fire triangle were identified as follows:

  1. Hydrocarbon Source: In both cases, the tanks were pumped down; however, there were small volumes of liquids remaining in the tanks. In incident #2, no further attempts to clean, wash or purge the tank were considered because workers did not plan to enter the confined space.
  2. Oxygen Source: When the tank manway was opened, air was allowed to enter the tank. Due to a combination of tank configuration, product temperature and ambient temperature, there was an induced draft pulling air into the tank.
  3. Ignition Source: The injured contractors were using an electric impact wrench to remove the nuts around the manway. These wrenches were not suitable for use in Class 1, Zones 0 & 1 work areas. After the incident, hand tools were to be used to complete manway door removal.

Causal Analysis: Inadequate Supervision: Roles and responsibilities specific to the Hot Work Code of Practice were not clearly defined. (i.e. hazard management, work plans and practices, equipment)

  • Failure to Control Hazards: While the potential for an explosive atmosphere was identified during the hazard assessment, no measures were taken to control the hazards.
  • Improper Tools: The use of electrical hand tools in an explosive atmosphere.

Recommendations for Preventing Future Incidents: The key corrective actions identified by the Prime Contractors and Employers involved in these incidents included:

  • Ensure staff understands the roles and responsibilities of the Prime Contractor.
  • The Prime Contractor must implement a safety management system or process that verifies compliance with provincial regulations by all employers on site.
  • Review Fire and Explosion Prevention Code of Practices including a review of Industry Recommended Practice Volume: 18 Fire and Explosion Hazard Management; the expanded fire triangle and the fire and explosion prevention checklist. Reinforce that this checklist must be completed any time that a hot work permit is required.
  • Complete an on-site hazard assessment and strictly follow safe work procedures when dealing with explosive atmospheres. Identify the hazards, and controls. Develop a detailed Job Safety Analysis (JSA) for this type of procedure. Engage and review with all employees.
  • Discuss with the field operations staff which tools are acceptable when completing hot work activities. Also, review the Class 1, Zones 0 & 1 sections of the electrical code with the field operations staff and discuss how to confirm if equipment is intrinsically safe.
Workers Injured in Tank Explosions