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Contact with relatives of people killed through work activities

Summary

This guidance explains the practical arrangements for following HSE’s policy on contacting and communicating with bereaved families in connection with work-related deaths.

Introduction

The general principles describing how front line staff should treat members of bereaved families are set out in HSE’s policy statement on working with victims. This OG develops those principles into roles and responsibilities for staff, and ways of engaging with families that can help to create a positive relationship and lead to a well-managed outcome.

The guidance on the inter-personal aspects of engaging with bereaved families and making initial contact are universally applicable, but there are procedural differences in Scotland. These are set out in Appendix 1 and should be read in conjunction with the Enforcement Guide for Scotland.

Action

The Principal Inspector is responsible for:

In meeting these objectives, the Principal Inspector should consider the issues and take or delegate the action as set out under the headings below, in the appropriate sequence according to circumstances.

Initial contact

Meeting the family

Key events for keeping the family informed

In England and Wales, examples of the key events during the HSE investigation when contact should always be made with the family are:

Managing the family’s needs and expectations

Background

HSE is committed to being as open as possible in providing families with details about the progress of an investigation whilst complying with the statutory bounds of disclosure, and without prejudicing any subsequent legal proceedings. HSE’s policy statement on victims is based on the Prosecutors’ Pledge, introduced by the Attorney General in 2005. The policy extends the scope of the Pledge to all investigations, establishing a public expectation of how we will engage with bereaved families.

The ‘Advice and Information for Bereaved Families’ pack has been replaced by a single HSE leaflet (there are versions for England and Wales as well as Scotland) which provides the family with information about how the investigation will proceed, the legal processes that are likely to follow, and signposts to HSE’s website for support services they may find helpful.

Experience has shown longer-term advantages in meeting the family early. It demonstrates commitment to them, provides the family with a contact name and face, and enables them to have a better understanding of our role, including the scope and purpose of our investigation.

However, some bereaved people may be unable to face any communication with investigators in the immediate aftermath of an incident, but may want information at some later stage, so flexibility over timing is important.

Organisation

Recording and reporting

Records should be kept of all meetings in notebooks and on COIN, and it is essential to record what is disclosed to the family. The main points discussed with the family should be confirmed in writing if they so request or if considered appropriate to have a shared record of decisions and actions.

Health and safety

There are risks to staff from the experience of dealing with bereaved families which should be recognised and managed in accordance with HSE guidance.

Diversity

There are several aspects to diversity to take into account and respect when engaging with bereaved families.

The nature of the family

Culture and religion

Language

Further references

Appendices

Appendix 1: Arrangements in Scotland

Appendix 2: Engaging the family – practical aspects

Updated 2015-04-20