Gill Hutchinson (1)

Gill Hutchinson, health and safety expert at HR and employment law firm, Empire.

A recent serious accident on a high-speed roller coaster at the Alton Towers theme park should serve as a warning to other businesses to check their health and safety procedures, according to a North-east HR expert.

A full investigation is still ongoing following the crash at the leading theme park, which left four people with “life-changing” serious injuries and others trapped for hours in the air.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has said action will be taken if there is evidence the safety of other rides at the park is at risk, while managers have been quick to assure the public that safety is a primary concern.

Empire health and safety consultant, Gill Hutchinson, said: “Following a serious incident, a standard procedure should be followed and instigated as soon as possible.

“The first move should be to call on the emergency services and also gain support from a team of dedicated health and safety professionals who can advise you throughout the investigation into the incident – the HSE would also need to be notified as soon as possible.

“As Merlin Entertainments has discovered, a company’s reputation and share price can be affected very quickly after a serious incident. Furthermore, those injured at Alton Towers have already begun legal proceedings and businesses need to be prepared to act very quickly to minimise damage to the organisation.

“Those involved in the incident should be suspended on full pay to minimise the risk of employees discussing any suspected causes of the incident which could potentially jeopardise the outcome of the investigation. Employees should be provided with a letter outlining the terms of the suspension, reminding them to be available for meetings.”

Ms Hutchinson added that individual investigation meetings should be held with all staff involved in the incident, even those not involved directly.

“Detailed witness statements should be collated and all staff reminded of the need to maintain confidentiality in accordance with contracts of employment.  Staff must be reminded not to disclose confidential information except to those involved in the investigation bearing in mind a criminal prosecution may be instigated.

“By ensuring the established emergency and accident investigation procedure is followed and all necessary action is taken in good time, businesses can manage a major incident and move forward with lessons learned”