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In this series, I share with you my thoughts on Why Safety Is An Issue For Most Companies i.e. Things We Must Address If We Want To Improve Our Safety Performance.

  Do Not Disturb the Crime (Accident) Scene  

Listening to some of the earlier testimony of the Oscar Pistorius trial, I couldn’t but notice that the defence attorney made a meal of “disturbing the crime scene”, because it cast doubt on what actually happened.

Ladies and gentlemen,
“I put it to you” that
not “disturbing the crime scene”
must apply to accident scenes too.

After something has gone wrong and people are injured or some serious damage has been done, the first action that needs to be taken is to immediately shut down the process, stop the operation and isolate the energy. Then the injured should be attended to and the area made safe.

The next step is to cordon off the accident scene and prevent people from walking about.  Why limit access to the area?  The most compelling reason is so as to not disturb the accident scene until investigators have had a chance to understand what really happened.

There is a temptation by all who have a badge, or who have a vehicle with a “blue / red light”, siren and emergency radio, to rush into the accident zone. This can be catastrophic, like what happened recently at the N1 incident near Polokwane, where 4 police officers were killed.

picture of emergency barricade at SASOL Polymers - Sasolburg

I have seen the same thing happen in a number of industrial accidents. During the time that I worked in an explosives factory, 14 people were killed – an entire management team wiped out – while they were investigating an explosion which had happened the previous day.

When you are dealing with chemicals, gasses, combustible materials and even on construction sites, restrict the number of investigators to the absolute minimum, until you are sure you have an understanding of what happened and that it is safe for emergency people to enter the scene.

Passers-by who want to “look and see” what happened should be kept well away from an accident scene. This is not a spectator sport – unfortunately we see this too often at road accidents – everyone slowing down and gawking to try and see some blood and guts. This often creates an even bigger hazard and can lead to secondary accidents.


Review your emergency procedures and make sure you have the sequence correct:



Explosion on N1 – Investigating Accidents


“The Best Audits”         “Good Housekeeping”         “Is This a Circus?”


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Copyright: Jürgen Tietz
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