How we investigate incidents

This page describes the purpose of investigating an incident and how we are informed when a serious incident occurs. Also, how we investigate, how we work with other bodies in the railway to find out what has happened, and what we do with the information.

When an incident or accident occurs, we receive notification in line with RIDDOR. The Rail Accident Investigation Branch (RAIB) and British Transport Police (BTP) also investigate certain railway accidents and our inspectors work in collaboration with them in order to share information.

The RAIB carries out the investigation into rail accidents and incidents without apportioning blame or liability, with a view to enabling lessons to be learned to improve safety on railways and prevent similar accidents and incidents. We may also investigate alongside RAIB in order to see whether there have been any breaches of health and safety law.

The RAIB can make recommendations to us, as the National Safety Authority. We consider their recommendations and, if appropriate, pass them on to dutyholders who are required to take them into consideration and, where necessary, act upon them.

Incidents and accidents that are not within the scope of the RAIB's work may also be investigated by us to find out what caused them and whether there have been any breaches of health and safety law. This helps us check how effective the dutyholder's health and safety management system is working and identify areas for improvement.

Successful investigations rely on assistance from many people including employers, employees, contractors and members of the public, who help us to establish what happened. We may talk to, and interview such people during an investigation. We call these people 'witnesses' and have published an information leaflet pdf icon PDF, 352 Kb to help those we ask to help us.

If it is appropriate, we have the power to prosecute under health and safety law. More information can be found in our enforcement section.