When an employee dies

When an employee dies at work: managing media queries


If an employee dies while they are at work, the media may hear about it and want to report the incident, particularly if the death was a result of an accident or violence.

How much media interest is created - and how you handle that interest - will depend on the nature of the incident.

If one person dies, it may only be reported in the local press. However, if there is a major accident and many people die including employees, public and/or fire and rescue personnel, the media coverage may be national or even international.

Responding to the media

When it comes to your business answering calls from media organisations, it is best not to ignore them - bad media coverage could turn a human tragedy into a business disaster. However, staff should be instructed to refer any enquiries to a particular individual or department that is best equipped to deal with them. The image your business presents to the business community and public should be as positive, empathetic and understanding as possible whatever the circumstances.

You could release a verbal or written statement:

  • expressing regret
  • reassuring other employees, the public, customers, suppliers, etc
  • giving a brief outline of what happened
  • saying that the incident is being investigated
  • detailing how the business will be affected, if at all

Alternatively, you could hold a press conference so that you and/or your legal representative and any other interested parties can answer media questions face to face.

If you have someone in your business with experience of public relations (PR) and/or dealing with the media, they should manage media relations. If you don't, you could engage a PR consultant to advise you on managing the media interest.

However you manage media relations, you should avoid making promises, accusations or suggestions - it's best to stick to the basic, confirmed facts.