How ‘Golden Hour” principles apply to workplace investigations

With its roots in the medical profession, the basic ‘Golden Hour’ rule emphasizes the critical need for swift intervention in treating major trauma to prevent complications and mitigate further harm. This principle is now often applied in investigations to harness the clear advantages and extensive benefits of a rapid and efficient response to reported incidents.

In workplaces, addressing complaints promptly and thoroughly at the outset can lead to effective and efficient resolutions, benefiting both individuals and organizations. Early proactive steps may sometimes facilitate simple solutions like managerial guidance or mediation, offering advantages to all parties involved.

Workplace investigations can encompass a spectrum from minor infringements of discipline codes and policies through to serious misconduct that might amount to criminality, and include health and safety incidents. To support this work, there are five ‘building blocks’, to be considered when a report is made:

  • Risk assessment – people, places, and ‘things’
  • Scene preservation
  • Securing evidence
  • Identifying persons reporting
  • Identifying persons reported

For companies undergoing these investigations there are a variety of potential actions that will be execute, yet every incident cannot be done via a ‘tick-box’ process, but rather on a case-by-case basis. Ironically, because of the peculiarities of such investigations, it might be considered that a skilled and experienced investigation mindset is even more crucial when rationale for decision-making is so important.

First steps in applying ‘Golden Hour’ rule

When considering those initial ‘golden hour’ actions following a report, the initial assessments of it/them should be conducted using the well documented ABC (and D) principles of investigation and mindset, sensitively, with an open-mind, empathy, and compassion.

Those ‘golden hour’ actions might include any, all, or none of the following considerations in no particular order of priority and not exhaustive,

  • Identify, visit, and preserve the scene, (if relevant)
  • Initial assessment, record a situation report (5WH). Remember to use all your senses
  • Secure, seize, preserve, evidence. Consider the nature of reported incident and relevancy of ‘exhibits’
  • Identify those reporting, reported, and witnesses
  • Risk assessment(s). Those reporting, reported, witnesses, and you/colleagues
  • Sketch plans, photographs, CCTV preservation
  • Secure, seize, preserve documents, computer(s), data
  • Secure, seize, preserve incident reports, access data
  • Mobile phone footage and/or screenshots
  • Secure and record any initial accounts (5WH) but resist ‘probing’
  • Support and welfare considerations for all and link to risk assessments
  • Seek and record any, and all, investigatively relevant information
  • Document your actions and rationale for doing/not doing what you did

Importance of case management in workplace investigations

The actions undertaken in the immediate aftermath of a reported incident amount to a primary investigation and are a crucial cornerstone of any secondary investigation that follows. They will be scrutinised by any court, tribunal, or panel hearing. Rationalise and record your decision-making. It’s often more important to record why you didn’t do something more than why you did do something.

To ensure that workplace investigations are conducted effectively, organized, and compliant having a case management system to house everything is essential. Case management systems such Advocate from Symplicity, used by Intersol, are invaluable tools for logging actions and decision making, and for storing certain digital material.

“Workplace investigation where lives, livelihoods, careers, and reputations are the stakes is no place for the enthusiastic amateur.” 

Intersol Global are your ‘safe pair of hands’ to take you on the investigation journey. Contact us at or call +44 (0)1925 982680.

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