March 31, 2022

Seven Steps In A Workplace Accident Investigation Process

Has there been a serious injury at your workplace? While you may feel the need to write it off as a human error, management should always complete an investigation. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) strongly encourages managers to investigate all incidents where employees are hurt or where there were close calls.

This blog post will provide guidance to management looking to investigate accidents in the workplace. We will share a systems approach to incident investigations in the workplace to help you save time and identify the root causes of accidents.

How To Complete A Proper Investigation of A Workplace Incident

Follow this entire process to get to the bottom of a workplace event and complete corrective actions.

1. Respond Right Away

Once an incident or accident occurs, you need to take immediate action to protect the health and safety of your employees.

The first step is to coordinate your company's emergency response and notify emergency personnel. The workplace health and safety person should enact your safety program and response to the best of their abilities; this includes stopping operational procedures, seeing to any injuries and property damage, and securing the scene. If there is an injured worker, employers will need to take the time to notify the appropriate personnel and the worker's family members.

2. Gather Information

After the scene has been secured and the injured individual is treated, it’s time to start an accident investigation.

Accident investigations are crucial to identifying what happened and getting down to the incident's root cause. It also helps employers take corrective action and prevent recurrences of incidents.

During the data collection step, you should:

  • Interview witnesses and ask them to complete and sign statements about what they saw
  • Gather relevant information from equipment logs
  • Create a diagram or take photos of the area
  • View footage or pictures from security cameras
  • Create a timeline of the incident from data gathered from employees' accounts, logs, and other sources

Investigating accidents should be done in a timely manner to avoid errors or loss of information. Witnesses can forget the details of the incident, causing their witness accounts to be inaccurate. The scene may also need to be cleared for employees to be able to work again.

3. Release The Accident Scene

You can release the incident site after you have completed the necessary investigative techniques. It’s impractical and costly to maintain the site despite its ideal. You should do your best to gather all necessary information before releasing the site and allowing staff to get back to work.

4. Analyze The Information

The next step in the process is to complete an incident analysis. An incident analysis will allow you to identify the incident's root cause.

In step 2, you should have created a timeline of the accident. Use this timeline to determine how the different factors are related to one another. For example, a timeline shows that an employee was working on a machine at 3:00 and they were injured at 3:10. You should see what happened between 3:00 and 3:10. Does the equipment log show any errors? Did any other person see the events unfold?

As you analyze the event, it’s easier to determine the cause.

5. Create An Investigation Report

Next, write an investigation report detailing all of the facts of the incident. The document needs to be comprehensive for both management and legal purposes.

A report is helpful if litigation becomes necessary, especially since litigation typically takes place months or years after the workplace accident. Your legal counsel will thank you for this thorough documentation.

6. Share The Final Report

A crucial part of managing incidents is educating your team. Once you have finished your analysis, you have the task of sharing findings with your staff.

We recommend scheduling a meeting to discuss the findings with your team at this step in the process. Allow time for questions. The better everyone understands the cause of the accident, the less likely they will repeat it. Workers will also know how to complete tasks safely.

7. Make Corrective Actions

As an employer, you are responsible for the health and safety of your staff. Now that you have identified hazards in the workplace, you need to take steps to fit them.

Use the information from your incident investigation to identify any areas of improvement. For example, a human behavior issue may be a sign that your team does not remember workplace health and safety rules. Make an effort to train them on OSHA regulations.

Prevent Future Incidents With Safety Training

Workplace incidents are always unexpected, but you can take the necessary steps to prepare your staff. A tried and true way to prepare your team for workplace accidents is by investing in health and safety training.

We offer a wide range of safety consulting, training, and management services to companies of all sizes and niches in the U.S. Let us help you create a safer and healthier space.

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