Death in Service Checklist

A death at work is as rare as it is shocking. In this article we detail a short checklist to enable you to cover all bases at a time of considerable stress for you and your organisation.

Here are ten steps to follow if an employee dies at work.

  1. Call 999 and notify the HSE, ASAP. There is never ever a reason to wait to inform the authorities and doing so will only cause problems.
  2. Immediately thereafter, notify the employee’s emergency contact person, preferably in person. This news should not be delivered over the phone if at all possible. If you must deliver the news via a phone call, arrange for a company representative to meet the family, likely at the hospital. Alternatively the police will do this in your behalf and they are trained to do so.
  3. Notify Directors, key stakeholders and other employees with a need to know what happened. If you work in the public sector you will also be required to complete a SitRep (situation report) so ensure you follow the correct procedure.
  4. Notify your remaining employees of the fact of the death and let them know that further details will follow. Identify if anyone is significantly destressed and send them home or provide additional support. Take care not to share details unnecessarily.
  5. Follow your internal procedures for contact with the media. If you do not have any such internal procedures, or if you are not comfortable with anyone in your organization facing the media, engage a public relations firm, as soon as possible. You will need someone to say something. “No comment” is not a good statement under these circumstances; it will look like you’re hiding something or don’t care.
  6. Show extreme sensitivity to the family of the deceased. Who do they want to be their contact person? Who will disseminate funeral arrangements and how? What are the family’s wishes regarding flowers, donations, calling, visitations, and other contact? How and when does the family want to handle necessary employment issues (final pay and holiday inc bonus, pension, company car, death in service benefits, access to Employee Assistance if relevant etc)
  7. Designate one suitable internal person as the main contact who is briefed to communicate information to employees, and for employees to ask any questions. Take care to appoint someone that you judge can handle doing this as not everyone could no matter how senior. Unless the family directs otherwise, instruct employees not to contact the family.
  8. Arrange for counselling or other mental-health services for those employees who witnessed any accident, or are otherwise impacted.
  9. Don’t forget yourself. Are you OK? Who is supporting you? Have you eaten or contacted home. What do you need?
  10. Once the initial actions have been taken it is important that someone leads a debrief for all that are involved. This may be a week or two later. Think about what the company can do with regard to the funeral (sending flowers etc) and how to pack up belongings and get them to the family. The company may also consider making a corporate donation (with the families permission) to a suitable charity in memory of the employee.

And finally

If the death at work was in any way suspicious the police will investigate as will the HSE.  However you may also wish to lead your own investigation and appoint someone independent – either internally or externally to enable you as an organisation to reflect and learn at a later date.

If you would like any help or support do get in contact with us.