Recently, we have had the privilege to welcome Paul to the IRISgroup team. Paul Hand is a highly skilled expert and has exceptional practical experience in: Counter terrorism (protecting crowded spaces / events); Public disorder; Public safety; Planned and spontaneous critical / major incidents; Road Safety and Congestion management. For further information regarding Paul and IRISgroupconsulting, visit

Recently, Rob Paterson has joined IRISgroup as an Associate.

Rob is a highly experienced investigations and governance reform professional with over 27 years experience in specialised law enforcement and regulation. His career in law enforcement as Senior Detective, South Australia Police and Senior Investigator, Police Integrity Commission NSW, spanned policing, public sector governance, management of misconduct, criminal and anti-corruption investigations, fraud and corruption control, risk and security management, ethics, compliance and governance reform.

Rob’s addition to the team increases our capacity to provide professional services especially for pre-trial investigations and inquiries.

A contracting firm has been fined $425,000 and the Company Director personally fined $85,500 relating to the death of a worker who fell through an unsecured penetration on a construction site and died. The District Court of NSW found the company involved had previous breaches for not having adequate controls to manage height safety, and failed in their duty to protect workers.

Unfortunately, deaths in mining, and construction continue with regular frequency in Australia, with many well identified fatal risks not being adequately controlled.

Ask yourself if safety obligations are being taken seriously where you work? Are adequate investigations being carried out into near miss and other incidents? Are you analysing data to see where your problem areas are? Do you have a good reporting culture (i.e. do you know what type of incidents are occurring? If the answer to any of these questions is ‘no’ then its time to rethink your WHS Management strategy.

With cases starting to trickle though involving the WHS Act, it’s clear the courts have laid down the gauntlet in terms of the hefty penalties that can be expected where a serious injury or fatality occurs at a workplace.

Many organisations fail to adequately set up an investigation framework, or have people trained to carry out workplace investigations.   This invariably leads to poor investigation outcomes.  In addition, failing to adequately ‘triage’ incoming incidents, often leads to an inadequate response or in some cases ‘over reacting’ to an incident.

The chart below gives a graphical representation of the adequacy of the investigation v the adequacy of the outcomes in terms of the outcomes in the development of controls to prevent a further incident from occurring.

Investigation Quality

Investigation Quality

IRISgroup has recently undertaken a number of high level investigations relating to critical incidents that have occurred in large government organisations.    Critical incidents happen rarely but can have a long term and potentially debilitating impact on persons exposed both to physical and psychological harm.  As former Police Officers, we were used to the ‘informal’ debrief at the local hotel; which might have seemed adequate; but given the high rates of PTSD amongst Police, was clearly ineffective in the long term.

Over the years, formal ‘de-briefing’ processes were introduced in many organisations – often referred to as an ’employee assistance program’ or similar.

As experienced investigators, we know that staff welfare is of vital importance when planning the investigative response.   Be careful involving lawyers, inexperienced investigators or direct line management in investigations for critical incidents.  A good investigator knows how to reassure staff, explain the process and provide ‘independent’ understanding to witnesses.   Interviews relating to critical incidents are not the time for legal ‘technobabble’,  bumbling / ill-thought out questions or management self interest.

Some key considerations from our experience includes:

  • Creating a quite, safe and private environment for the interview
  • Use support persons where requested or required
  • Be professional – be set up, and have your ‘technology’ ready to go
  • Promote calming behaviour – be empathetic – don’t jump in until a level of trust has been developed
  • Listen and support – take their account of what happened in their own words – identify key issues / key evidence and carefully explore
  • Promote support systems during and after the interview so they know you are concerned for their welfare
  • Be optimistic about the outcomes of the investigation to prevent re-occurrence – if that is not your intention why bother investigating?