The primary objective of an accident investigation is to learn the cause of an incident in order to prevent similar injuries from happening in the future. Factors such as work environment, job constraints, traffic conditions and worker experience can all be contributing factors and should be examined to determine what role each had in causing an incident.
An incident investigation is a way to collect facts to determine the “who, what, where and when” of a situation. It also aids in the development of actions to correct the unsafe condition, act or work practice.
An effective incident investigation plan contains these key components:
- Written support and authority from senior management to conduct the necessary investigations
- Names of the individuals in charge of the investigations
- Means to quickly notify the investigating team
- Instructions on the use of special equipment to be worn or brought to the scene
- Incident investigation procedures
Keeping these components in mind, employers should develop and frequently practice their incident investigation plan. Employers should also answer these important questions up front regarding the incident investigation:
- Do we have an incident investigation report tailored to the information needs of the investigation?
- What kinds of incidents must be investigated?
- Who should investigate?
- What training should investigators have?
- Should an employee or driver review committee be involved in the process?
- Who reviews the investigation report and follows up on any observations or recommendations?
The Importance of Recordkeeping
OSHA requires that injuries/illnesses must be recorded if they result in any of the following:
- Days away from work
- Restricted work
- Transfer to another job
- Medical treatment beyond first aid
Additionally, you must notify OSHA within eight hours following the death of an employee or in-patient hospitalization of three or more employees. Call either your area office or the OSHA toll free number 1-800-321-6742.
It’s also critical that updated and accurate records be kept for each workplace accident. Helpful tips include:
- Maintain a file on each incident.
- Keep all records, purchase orders and work orders associated with each recommendation in the file.
- Close out a file only when all of the corrective actions have occurred.
- Keep the number of copies of the incident report restricted (three at the most).
- Circulate the report on a need-to-know basis, not to curiosity seekers.
- Look at a broader perspective rather than individual incidents. Is there a trend that may point to a bigger problem?
Accident investigations can provide valuable insight into the effectiveness of processes and procedures in the workplace; therefore it is important to conduct investigations in a systematic manner. Doing so promotes a consistent approach to workplace safety.
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