Health, Safety and Environment Monthly Messages (2018)

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All incidents and near misses should be subject to local investigation, with the level and nature of each investigation dependent on the severity of the incident and likelihood of recurrence for each event. Blaming individuals is ultimately fruitless and sustains the myth that incidents and cases of ill health are unavoidable when, in fact, the opposite is true. Well though-out control measures, combined with adequate supervision, monitoring and effective management will ensure that work activities are safe. An incident may result in more serious consequences should it happen again, therefore the primary aim of any investigation will be to prevent any reoccurrences.

These general considerations should be applied to all manner of incident investigations, which may include but may not be limited to: incidents which have resulted in injuries or the potential for injuries; incidents which have resulted in damage to property or equipment, or which had the potential to do so; or environmental incidents which have resulted in pollution or the potential for pollution.

The benefits of conducting effective incident investigations include:

  • Identifying why existing control measures failed and what improvements or additional measures are required;
  • Planning to prevent such incidents from reoccurring;
  • Identifying areas where the relevant risk assessments require reviewing;
  • Improving future risk control arrangements in the workplace.

Colleagues undertaking incident investigations within their Institute or Professional Service Department should consider the following questions to guide their analysis during the process:

  • How the event happened and what equipment was involved?
  • What effect difficulties in using the equipment had?
  • What activities were being done at the time?
  • Any abnormal working conditions?
  • Whether safe working procedures were adequate and whether they were followed?
  • The nature of the injuries or other harm?
  • How the injuries occurred?
  • How well known the risk was and whether control measures were adequate?
  • The influence of work organisation, workplace layout and/or the materials in use?
  • Whether maintenance and cleaning were good enough?
  • Whether the people involved were competent and suitable?
  • Whether there was enough safety equipment?

The primary purpose of all incident investigations should be to identify and address the following causes of the incident:

  1. Immediate Causes – agent of injury or ill health (e.g. object, substance, etc.);
  2. Underlying Causes – unsafe acts and/or unsafe conditions (e.g. guarding removed, ventilation switched off, etc.);
  3. Root Causes – failure from which all other failings grow, often removed from the incident or adverse event.

Following the identification of these causes, colleagues should use their findings to implement actions to prevent future or further occurrences. This can be achieved by ensuring that corrective action is taken, learning is widely shared, and any necessary improvements are put into place. 

For further information and guidance for conducting incident investigations, please contact the Health, Safety and Environment Team at or on extension 2073.


Stress affects people in a number of ways, both physically and emotionally, and in varying intensities. Research has shown that increased pressure can sometimes be positive, improving performance in certain situations. However, it has only been found as beneficial if it is short-lived. Excessive or prolonged pressure can contribute to illness such as heart disease and mental health problems such as anxiety and depression.

As a result, it’s important that individuals recognise and act upon the signs of stress. Stress can affect how you feel emotionally, mentally and physically, and also how you behave.  Whilst stress affects everyone differently, common signs or symptoms include:

How you may feel emotionally

  • overwhelmed
  • irritable and "wound up"         
  • anxious or fearful         
  • lacking in self-esteem

How you may feel mentally

  • racing thoughts         
  • constant worrying         
  • difficulty concentrating         
  • difficulty making decisions

How you may feel physically

  • headaches         
  • muscle tension or pain         
  • dizziness         
  • sleep problems        
  • feeling tired all the time          
  • eating too much or too little

How you may behave

  • drinking or smoking more         
  • snapping at people         
  • avoiding things or people you are having problems with

Experts in wellbeing suggest the following ten stress-busting tips:

  1. Be Active - Exercise won't make your stress disappear, but it will reduce some of the emotional intensity that you're feeling, clearing your thoughts and letting you to deal with your problems more calmly. 
  2. Take Control - There's a solution to any problem. The act of taking control is in itself empowering, and it's a crucial part of finding a solution that satisfies you and not someone else.
  3. Connect with People - A good support network of colleagues, friends and family can ease your work troubles and help you see things in a different way.
  4. Have some 'me time' - Spend enough time doing things you really enjoy.
  5. Challenge Yourself - Setting yourself goals and challenges, whether at work or outside, such as learning a new language or a new sport, helps to build confidence. This will help you deal with stress.
  6. Avoid Unhealthy Habits - Don't rely on alcohol, smoking and caffeine as your ways of coping. Over the long term, these crutches won't solve your problems.
  7. Help Other People - Evidence shows that people who help others, through activities such as volunteering or community work, become more resilient.
  8. Work Smarter, Not Harder - Working smarter means prioritising your work, concentrating on the tasks that will make a real difference.
  9. Try to be Positive - Look for the positives in life, and things for which you're grateful.
  10. Accept the Things you can’t Change - Changing a difficult situation isn't always possible. Try to concentrate on the things you do have control over.

If you are looking to try some of these stress busting tips, these links may help:

Further information is available via the following sources:

Mental Health Foundation:

NHS Stress: