Crisis Communications Checklist: Workplace Accidents and Fatalities

Workplace accidents and fatalities require careful management and commuication.

Careful management and communications during a workplace accident or fatality helps everyone.

Wherever you live, you probably have seen news of a workplace accident or, unfortunately, even a fatality. Workplace accidents present tragic, and sometimes worst-case scenarios that have significant ramifications. Having a crisis management and communications checklist for workplace accidents and fatalities – preferably in advance of any incident – is paramount.

BETTISON has handled numerous workplace accidents, fatalities, and other safety issues in a variety of industrial, construction, agriculture and manufacturing settings. It’s from this experience that we have developed a checklist. It can help you prepare in advance or in real time.

This crisis management and communications checklist is not exhaustive. Nor is it presented in an exact order or sequence. Each situation will require its own analysis and response. This checklist is intended to be a starting point:

  1. The employee’s family – These are the ones who, on a personal level, are the most directly impacted. Sincere empathy and respect, along with any information that can be shared concerning the accident, is required. Timely communication is critical. It is advisable to consult with an attorney, if there is time, before communicating with the family considering the fact the family may have legal claims against the employer regarding injury or death.
  1. Other employees – Employees may of course be very concerned, afraid, and confused. Clear, timely, and sensitive communications with your employees will need to convey sympathy and the shared shock and grief of an incident their co-worker experienced. Employees need assurances the company is safe so they can be confident to keep working there. Share the steps you are taking to review and possibly change policies, procedures, or production schedules. Your employees are key to ensuring the company remains operational during what could be a lengthy investigation following the workplace accident or fatality. 
  1. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) – Work directly with your legal team to determine how you will participate in any OSHA-undertaken investigation.
  1. Law Enforcement – Local police, sheriff’s department, or emergency medical service (EMS) are likely to be on the scene after the workplace accident or fatality occurs. Obviously, full cooperation is required. Again, consulting with your attorney during an investigation is advisable.
  1. State agencies – You may need to report the workplace accident or fatality to a state agency. In Minnesota, for example, workplace fatalities and serious injuries must be reported to the Department of Labor and Industry within a certain timeframe. As with OSHA, this is another instance where legal counsel is needed to ensure full compliance.
  1. Shareholders or investors – This audience will be interested in the details of the incident. Equally important, they will want to know what you are doing to prevent it from happening again. Investors in particular may want to hear how and if the incident will impact the company’s performance, or, for publicly held organizations, stock price.
  1. Customers – Depending on the business, customers may also need to hear from the organization about the incident: what actions are being taken to address the problem giving rise to the incident; and how this will affect the way they purchase products or services. Sharing these proactive steps can go a long way in assuring those who might be making assumptions about the company and related negative publicity regarding its health and safety record.
  1. Vendors/suppliers – Consideration must be given to whether and how to communicate details about the accident. Be very clear with this audience about whether the incident will affect how they do business with you, such as delays in production or shipping. You also will want to note any additional preventive actions you are taking, such as new or updated safety protocols.
  1. Media – Media may report on the accident, particularly if it involves a fatality. If you are contacted by media, you must decide whether to provide information to them and when. In many workplace accidents, investigations as to conditions giving rise to the accident will be lengthy, so you may not have a lot of information to share immediately. If you are being asked questions to which you do not know the answer, it is certainly acceptable to say so.

Develop your crisis management and communications plan in advance to be better prepared.

For many organizations, the question is not if an accident will happen, but when. Of course, the best-case scenario is that you are able to operate a 100% accident-free workplace.

Manufacturing, shipping, production, and construction are industries that see the most workplace accidents. Being prepared with a crisis management and communications checklist for workplace accidents and fatalities before it occurs is the best way to avoid one in the first place, and that requires a rigorous, detailed, and continuously monitored health and safety program.

Contact Minneapolis public relations firm BETTISON for crisis management and communications planning and support.

Having a management and communications plan in place for all your key stakeholders provides the benefit of being prepared if something does happen. It also drives a more comprehensive health and safety program, allowing you to identify blind spots before an incident occurs.

Stacy Bettison, a licensed attorney and public relations expert, leads BETTISON and has over 15 years of experience in complex crisis management and communications. Contact our Minneapolis public relations firm today so we can help.