The many thousands of workplaces subject to Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) regulation are faced with a variety of challenging safety issues over the course of completing a project or operating a facility. Under OSHA standards, all workplaces are required to develop emergency response plans in order to effectively respond to the many and varied safety crises that businesses face in the modern economy. Considerable effort is expended every year by safety and legal professionals to create and further develop quality emergency response plans. Unfortunately, no matter how much time and money is expended to prevent crises, they occur, and can have devastating consequences. When a crisis does occur, the affected company must implement their emergency response plan and investigate the accident or incident. Taking the time and effort to construct a thorough emergency response plan is invaluable when a real-world crisis scenario occurs. However, even the most elegant emergency response plan requires dedicated effort to implement correctly.
The purpose of this paper is to provide a proactive and cautious approach to investigating accidents and incidents, with particular attention paid to securing and documenting the scene of the accident, communications and the attorney-client privilege, interviews and statements of third parties, documenting the crisis, providing assistance to the families of those affected by the crisis, and producing quality and useful internal investigation report.
After taking emergency response measures designed to protect the lives of those involved in the crisis incident, the first priority for an employer should be to secure and document the scene of the incident. Securing the site is of vital importance, as it is incumbent upon employers to preserve material evidence that will be necessary to complete a root-cause investigation. Access to the site of the incident should be heavily restricted, and limited only to potential law enforcement, OSHA compliance officers, and the employer's investigative personnel. Preventing access to the site may be accomplished through the use of barriers, such as caution tape or cones identifying the restricted area.