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HSE response to a major incident or civil contingency event

Summary

The Divisional Major Incident Response Plan (MIRP) and HSE Emergency Response Plan (ERP) are for all HSE staff who provide support to, or are involved in, the HSE response to a major incident. The MIRP sets out what has to be done at a local or divisional level and is particularly relevant to operational staff in FOD and HID; whilst the ERP sets out what has to be done if this response needs to be escalated.

Introduction

The guidance sets out the principles of the HSE response to a major incident or politically sensitive situation and explains what actions staff should take if the response plan is implemented.

HSE’s response arrangements for a major incident or politically sensitive event recognise that a graduated response may be needed according to the incident, so the plan is in two parts:

Action

Inspectors and administrative staff in operational roles or who provide support to operational staff, should familiarise themselves with the Level 1: Divisional Major Incident Response Plan (MIRP) and with the Level 2: HSE Emergency Response Plan (ERP). In addition, inspectors need to be familiar with the Work Related Deaths Protocol.

This guidance and the Divisional and national contact lists/appendices should be available to all staff electronically. The following staff should maintain and keep securely a hard copy of the MIRP Initial Response Guide Appendix 4 and Divisional ad national contact lists for use out of hours:

Operational staff at Band 2 and above should also have a copy of the ERP Initial response guide (Appendix 5)

Updating the Divisional and national contact lists

In each division a nominated plan coordinator is responsible for updating and amending the divisional contact lists and circulating updates to the national contact lists.

What? Who by? How often? When by?
First working day of…
FOD Divisional contact numbers FOD Divisional Office Quarterly May, August, November and February
FOD External numbers FOD Divisional Office 6 Monthly May and November
HID Contact numbers HID HQ Quarterly May, August, November and February
HSE Duty Officer system contact numbers FOD Divisional Office As required  
HID HQ As required  
National numbers e.g. LAs, Cat 1 responders Emergency Planning Unit (EPU) 6 Monthly May and November
Asbestos Decontamination Contractors- FOD Divisional Office 6 monthly May and November

Background

HSE’s response arrangements for a major incident or politically sensitive event recognise that a graduated response may be needed according to the incident, so the plans are in two parts:

Usually the initial response to an incident will take place at the divisional level. Information gained from the initial local response and briefings provided will inform whether the incident should be considered a potential HSE Major incident or whether the incident is likely to be of such significance that the high level, cross government committee, COBR may meet.

Level 1: Divisional Major Incident Response Plan (MIRP)

The MIRP should be invoked when events requiring HSE’s attention meet the following criteria:

Who has authority to invoke the MIRP?

Authority to invoke the MIRP lies with Heads of Divisions/Operations. When the person who receives the initial contact is at Band 2 or below, they must consult the Head of Division/Operations if they believe the plan should be activated or if there is doubt about whether it should be.

For the purposes of this plan, the person receiving the initial contact and making a decision about use of the MIRP is referred to as the Decision Maker.

Decision Makers will receive many notifications of incidents where an immediate HSE response might be appropriate. Where they feel the above criteria are not met and that scaling up to a major level of response by HSE is unnecessary (most single-fatality incidents will fall into this category) the MIRP need not be used. This is a key judgement.

Questions which could help make a decision on whether or not to use the MIRP are:

The level of political and media interest in an incident is often determined by the severity of the incident and the sensitivity of the activity involved. For example, major incidents affecting the public, such as at fairgrounds, hospitals or schools, and those involving exposure to asbestos or legionella have a high degree of sensitivity.

The MIRP should not be invoked solely in response to political or media concern for incidents which would not otherwise require a response beyond the routine.

If the Decision Maker decides the MIRP need not be invoked, it can still be used as a useful framework.

Level 2: HSE Emergency response plan (ERP)

The HSE Emergency Response Plan (ERP) provides information in addition to that in the Level 1 Divisional MIRP and should be used where the Divisional MIRP has been activated and either:

A major civil contingency event is:

  1. where the capabilities of local or regional responders to respond effectively has been exceeded; and
  2. COBR, the central response arrangements have been activated, or
  3. where emergency regulations, under the Civil Contingencies Act 2004, have been invoked.

Who has the authority to invoke the ERP?

Authority to invoke the ERP lies with the CE/DG in consultation with the appropriate Heads of Division, Chair of the HSE Board, Ministers and Legal Advisors Office as appropriate.

The HSE Board can instruct that an incident is designated as an HSE Major Incident under section 14(2) (a) of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974.

Organisation

Preparedness

There are a number of practical and logistical issues that need to be considered at a local level in readiness for responding to a major incident. In the event of a major incident the Incident controller will ask the Office administration manager to implement these measures.

These measures need to be maintained and practiced regularly to ensure the division can respond effectively. More information is given in Appendix 2.

In the event of an emergency/incident that requires, or threatens to require, the evacuation of London and threatens the continuity of Government, departments are obliged to maintain alternative working premises outside the capital. HSE has limited access to the DWP alternative working premises. Details are held by Secretariat, EPU and BSD.

Initial Response

Initial notification

Notification of a major incident during office hours is most likely to come from the Incident Contact Centre or the Police. The caller should be put through to the relevant B2 or, if they are unavailable, another senior officer. The person to whom the initial call has been passed should act as the Decision Maker and decide on any further action.

Notification of a major incident out of hours will be via the HSE Duty Officer.

NB Information about home addresses and telephone numbers should not be released outside HSE without the permission of the person(s) concerned.

Deciding to initiate the plan

Responding effectively to public concern may mean initiating the plan before the true extent of the situation is clear. The basic rule is: Respond quickly, scale up resourcing quickly, and communicate as soon as possible.

A major incident needs very different management from routine investigations:

Initial response guides

The initial response guides cover the following roles:

Appendix 4 Divisional MIRP - Initial response guide:  Appendix 5 HSE ERP - Initial response guide:  Appendix 5 HSE ERP - Investigation management roles for an HSE- declared Major incident   
Decision Maker CE/DG Investigation Manager
Incident Controller HSE Secretariat  Investigation Team Leader
Incident Lead Inspector HSE Press Office Investigation Team
Incident Inspector  COBR representative  Major Incident Investigation Board.
Office Administration Manager Emergency Planning Unit  
Head of Division    
HSE Press Office    

Communication within HSE

Level 1: Divisional MIRP response - It is essential that the people in HSE listed below are given brief details of the event by the Decision Maker /Incident Controller regarding the potential for it being a major incident or civil contingency quickly, and that they are kept updated.

The Band 1 or Band 2 Incident Controller is appointed to deal with communications and provide a single point of liaison for the site inspection team. In practice, the same person may undertake these roles.

The Head of Division provides the link to the HSE Emergency Response Plan as they will advise the HSE MB of the potential for any incident to become a Board major incident or civil contingency event.

Arrangements should be made for SopraSteria via BSD, to be contacted at the earliest opportunity to ensure HSE systems will be available out of hours. This is important as SopraSteria may have scheduled work which could close down all or part of the systems.

N.B. Before making contact with SopraSteria via BSD, an assessment will need to be made as to which systems are required to support the response to the incident, e.g. are all systems such as TRIM, COIN, etc. necessary or would just email and/or the intranet be sufficient?  BSD contact details are in the divisionally held National Contact Lists.

Other HSE interests - If any other part of HSE may have an interest, they should be told as soon as possible. Heads of Division and the HSE Duty Officer have a list of contact telephone numbers.

FOD will lead the investigation of incidents other than HID-regulated major hazards. (See details in Contact lists)

Note: If the incident involves a nuclear site and ONR involvement is not already clear, it will be necessary to contact ONR (See draft MOU between HSE and ONR – TRIM 2014/131581). Out of hours, the appropriate ONR contact number is available from the HSE Duty Officer.

Level 2: HSE ERP Response - All information on either a potential HSE declared Major Incident or civil contingency event must be shared with:

HSE’s Response (or Concept of operations)

HSE has a 24/7 response to incidents that includes a decision maker who will assess the initial incident and determine HSE’s approach and deployment of resource – more detail is given in Appendix 1. HSE will give our best endeavours to respond to any reasonable request for information or a site response to an on-going live incident. We cannot guarantee attendance out of hours but, as a minimum, we will offer telephone advice.

HSE must decide whether or not attendance at site is required or desirable. In the initial response site presence may put additional pressure on inspectors. The emergency services, usually under the overall charge of the police, are responsible for controlling emergencies, including public protection. There are limited exceptions to this e.g. underground mine workings.

HSE must be careful to:

Before HSE's presence on site or investigation starts, the Incident Controller, in conjunction with the Lead Inspector, must carry out a suitable and sufficient risk assessment. The findings should be recorded and updated as necessary. A suggested template is available in Appendix 7.

EPU can offer advice on carrying out a stress assessment for staff in the team.

HSE’s role on site

If a decision is made to attend site, HSE's main task is to observe from a place of safety so others in HSE can be briefed and help later investigations. If we get involved during the initial response, it should normally be to provide technical support at the request of the emergency services. In our enforcement capacity we should only intervene in circumstances of extreme risk to the emergency services or others. We should not use our powers to direct that premises be left undisturbed if this would interfere with essential emergency work.

If a fatal incident is being investigated, the police must be advised about control of evidence from an HSE perspective. Where we cannot immediately get to site this must be done via telephone.

Once the incident is under control, we may need to advise on recovery of the site so that access is made safe. At this stage we should arrange to preserve evidence, using our formal powers if necessary. A Notice to leave undisturbed can be posted on site as well as served on the person in control of the premises. HSE may also need to ask the Building Control department of the local authority to take action on dangerous buildings or structures.

In the initial stages the site team should keep the Incident Controller fully briefed through the Incident Lead Inspector.

Work- Related deaths protocol

In the early stages of an investigation parties are committed to ensuring that any investigation into a work-related death is thorough and appropriate. The investigating parties will agree to liaise and co-operate and to work closely together in order to achieve this, for example by holding as early tripartite meeting with the Police and CPS (COPFS in Scotland).

See the Work-related deaths Protocol - Practical guide

Multi agency working

The Strategic – Tactical - Operational command structure (sometimes referred to as Gold – Silver - Bronze) is used by the emergency services in the UK to establish a hierarchical framework for the command and control of major incidents and civil emergencies. See Appendix 3.

Administrative support

Administrative support for the initial response will be provided by the divisional Band 4 Senior Admin Manager supported by other colleagues and appointed by the Incident Controller. Their role is to provide both administrative and logistical support to members of the initial response team under the direction of the Incident Controller - details of the roles involved in the response are given in Appendix 4. Information on administrative support arrangements, including a call handling system are set out in Appendix 2 - Preparedness.

During the early stages of an HSE response to a major incident it is likely that a significant amount of administrative support will be required. Directorates should consider and where appropriate, action the temporary transfer of administrative staff across teams, in line with cross directorate working, to support the HSE response.  It is expected that any such transfer would last only for the duration of the initial response and be appropriate to the circumstances.

Handling media enquiries

The Incident Controller will liaise with HSE Press Office to agree a media strategy, and arrangements for dealing with media queries. HSE Press Office will also brief the Head of Communications and other parts of Communications Directorate, including Internal Communications and the online team.

Out of hours: Press office contact is via the Duty Press Officer on 0151 922 1221

In practice the emergency services will normally be the lead organisation for dealing with the media in the initial response phase. HSE Press Office will establish contact with the lead agency’s press office to ensure messages to the media are joined up and coordinated.

Where appropriate, a senior spokesperson will be made available for media interviews; this would normally be the appropriate Head of Operations. However, where there is major national media interest this may be the Head of Division. HSE Press Office will advise and lead on these arrangements.

Where significant media attention or public interest is expected, the HSE Press Office will arrange for any press statements to be uploaded to the HSE website.

Media holding statements

Inspectors should avoid briefing the media without consulting with HSE Press Office. The agencies involved in the incident will be working hard to manage the messages going to the media and the release of unconfirmed/ uncoordinated information can cause undue public concern. Where there is likely to be press interest, the Incident Controller should make early contact with HSE Press Office and ensure regular updates are provided.

In practice, inspectors on site may find they are approached directly by members of the media. Unless specifically requested to do so by HSE or the lead agency press office, you should avoid detailed engagement with journalists, and refer enquiries to Press Office. However, you should not offer ‘no comment’. You could say something generic, such as:

For fatal incidents or where there have been injuries, do not release details of casualties - this will be done by the police.

Recovery Phase

Recovery is the process of rebuilding, restoring and rehabilitating the community following an incident. The lead category 1 responder for the recovery phase may not be the same as for the emergency phase. Usually, the Local Authority will play the leading role. A recovery strategy will be agreed to coordinate the multi- agency response. This might be taken forward by a Recovery Coordination Group (RCG). HSE might be asked to provide technical advice and support the RCG or any regional recovery bodies.

Any major incident or civil contingency event will give rise to a lengthy investigation. The recovery phase may start and there may be buildings or equipment involved that need repair or renewing before the results of the investigation are known.

HSE has a role in enabling recovery to take place provided that risks are adequately controlled. HSE needs to ensure that:

The business and local community, as appropriate, should be engaged with at an early stage and kept fully informed about progress of the operational response and when they may expect a return to every-day life.

For more information see the Cabinet Office guidance.

Investigation phase

The incident investigation should be conducted in line with FOD/HID investigation and evidence management procedures.

The recording capabilities of MEMT (Material Evidence Management Tool) and IMPACT should be used to log details of the evidence gathered and decisions made as part of the investigation.

The following additional logs are available and may be useful in the early stages of an incident to record activity in an incident control room on site or at the office:

These templates are held with the MIRP contact lists.

The approach in Work –related deaths Protocol – Practical guidance should be followed.

If the incident is escalated to a Level 2 HSE Major incident then Appendix 6 gives details of the requirements for a Major Incident Investigation report.

Investigation roles and responsibilities

Incident control centre/incident rooms

For some major incidents or civil contingency events, it will be necessary to set up an HSE Incident Control Centre at or near the site of the incident. The Incident Controller will decide whether an Incident Control Centre is required.

See Appendix 2: Preparedness for practical advice on setting up an incident control room.

Dealing with on-going media interest

The media interest in a major incident can continue well beyond the initial response period.  In these circumstances, when the multi-agency operation to deal with the media has been stood down, the focus of media interest may switch to HSE as it investigates the cause and any criminal culpability.

There may be considerable interest in the outcome of the investigation and impatience for it to conclude. It is important to maintain regular contact with HSE Press Office and provide regular updates. As there is a possibility that criminal charges could be brought, only a limited amount of information will normally be able to be disclosed and this should be agreed with Press Office.

Financial support during a Level 2 HSE Major Incident

If circumstances require, the Investigation Manager may

The appropriate Finance Manager should proactively contact the Investigation Manager in the first instance to offer support to the investigation. However, if this is not the case then the Investigation Manager may contact the Finance Manager or, if preferred, the Finance and Corporate Services Directorate (contact details in National Contact list)

If the Investigation Manager needs to make local arrangements outside of the norm to respond to a declared emergency and is concerned whether they have the necessary authority or capability to make those arrangements, they should contact the appropriate functional manager (e.g. BSD, HR, Finance etc.) in Redgrave Court including, if necessary, the HSE MB member with responsibility for that function.

Revision and review of HSE’s arrangements

Emergency Planning Unit has responsibility for monitoring, exercising and reviewing, as appropriate, HSE’s emergency arrangements. This includes considering experiences and lessons learnt from and tests or real incidents and ensuring these are disseminated.

Further Information

Contacts

HSE Emergency Planning Unit, Redgrave Court, Bootle

Appendices

Updated 2016-02-09