The relationship between the investigating officer and the specialist is crucial.
Timely involvement of the specialist & clear instructions, preferable in writing, setting out the nature of the specialist input required, will substantially improve the outputs of the investigation.
Specialists should meet the same standards of competency as regulatory inspectors, to ensure that all the duties on the organisation are met.
In the vast majority of investigations, a regulatory inspector will be assigned as the investigating officer and will take the lead.
For many technical investigations, it may be more efficient for the specialist to direct how the technical aspects are taken forward, and he/she will need to liaise closely with the investigating officer to determine the level of involvement required and how the investigation can be most effectively conducted.
Where appropriate the investigating officer should invite the specialist to an early case meeting to discuss the issues to be considered. Direct involvement in the investigation, e.g. through:
will significantly reduce the likelihood that the specialist could be appointed as an 'independent expert' for the purposes of the Court.
The specialist should record communications, noting all substantive interactions, both verbal and non verbal, with the investigating officer and any other relevant parties.
The record should always indicate the date of the communication, the person(s) involved and a brief description of what was said.
In view of the range of investigations covered by specialists, it would not be sensible to prescribe the type of record to be used, as this will depend on the size and complexity of the investigation, but it might be:
Specialists are advised to exercise professional judgement in terms of the information recorded. Importantly, all information relating to a specific incident must be retained and made available to the investigating officer/disclosure officer upon request.
A site visit may be appropriate in order to examine the scene of the incident, to remove samples, take photographs or assess whether any further tests need to be undertaken. This should be agreed with the investigating officer.
It may therefore be helpful to prepare a list of matters to be dealt with on site and ensure all necessary equipment is made available.
If photographs, samples or measurements are taken, ensure they are numbered and described carefully.
Consideration should also be given to the use of the material collected on site.
If at a later stage an 'independent expert' is appointed, the information collected by the specialist will be relied upon in the provision of expert opinion.
A specialist working on the investigation may need to speak directly with witnesses, or be present at PACE interviews, to ensure that the necessary questions are asked and adequately answered.
Some witnesses may also be suspects and, to avoid prejudicing the position of suspects, all contact with them should be controlled and managed by the investigating officer.
In some investigations this may be someone who is not an HSE inspector, e.g. in the case of work-related deaths, it may be the Police.
The investigating officer will decide how evidence will be obtained on site, particularly from potential witnesses.