After an accident occurs, your first priority should be to get appropriate treatment for the injured worker. After that, you will want to take steps to prevent additional accidents from occurring. However, like at a crime scene, you’ll want to make sure you don’t disturb any evidence of what could have led to the accident before you have time to investigate.
What does a successful investigation uncover?
- direct cause of injury or accident
- peripheral and interrelated causes or results of the incident
- ways to promote safety and safe work methods
- ways to prevent similar incidents
- indirect and direct costs of the incident on wages, retraining, time lost, reduced production, etc.
To discover these facts requires a prompt and thorough investigation. Interview witnesses, other workers performing similar jobs or using the equipment — what were the direct causes of the accident? What were the indirect causes? What is the history of mishaps or near-misses in that department or among equipment users? What were actual and expected production levels when the accident occurred? Let witnesses use their own words and repeat their stories back to them to ensure understanding.
What Details Will You Need?
The information you’ll need includes: was the employee performing his or her regular job when the injury occurred? Was he or she involved in maintenance, repair or an infrequent task? Was he or she helping another worker (or vice versa) when the accident happened? Was the employee properly trained to perform the job and operate the equipment? Was he or she doing the job correctly? What were other workers doing at the time? Were “human” factors involved in the incident, such as fatigue, overtime, stress? What does the injured worker and his or her co-workers think about the “safety culture” in the workplace and management’s commitment to it?
What Makes a Successful Investigator?
Successful interviewing requires a calm, sympathetic, systematic approach. Injured workers and their co-workers may be very emotional about the event or unclear about what actually happened. Showing a caring attitude and permitting traumatized or other affected workers to “clear the air” can also help the information-gathering process. Investigators can build trust and obtain more accurate information when they’re straightforward about their role and their expectations.
To determine causes of an accident, a good investigator will look for gaps in information and facts that point away from a logical conclusion. But perhaps just as important as determining what caused the accident in question, he or she will be able to come up with recommendations for preventing similar accidents from happening again.