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10 Incident Investigation Tips

Employers should not think of accidents and near-misses as failures in their safety program. They should seize them as improvement opportunities. Here are 10 basic investigation tips that can help you improve your safety program:

The first step to ensuring an accident doesn’t happen again is finding out why it happened in the first place.

1. Focus on first things first. Getting medical care for anyone who needs it and correcting conditions that could cause more injuries should be your priority when an accident happens.

2. Assemble a team. Your safety committee can help investigate incidents, but make sure the team includes at least one person who is familiar with the task the injured worker was doing when the incident happened.

3. Investigate as soon as possible. The longer you wait, the more likely it is that the accident scene will change and witnesses will forget details.

4. Focus on facts. Incident investigations should be fact-finding missions, not fault-finding missions. Make it clear to employees that you are not looking to assign blame. You merely want to uncover the root causes so you can prevent future incidents.

5. Remember the 5 W’s. Your investigation should uncover the who, what, when, where and why of the incident.

6. Beware of quick conclusions. It is easy to assume an employee’s carelessness caused an accident. If you do, you will likely overlook the root causes and miss an opportunity to improve your processes. Even if the injured worker failed to follow safety procedures, you should focus on why. Maybe the employee hadn’t been trained to do the task safely. Or maybe personal protective equipment was not available.

7. Collect evidence. Examples include photos of the accident scene, video, job safety analyses and safety training records.

8. Interview stakeholders. They can include the injured employee, the supervisor and co-workers who witnessed the accident. Use the information to write a description of what happened.

9. Put control measures in place. After you’ve gathered evidence, interviewed witnesses and uncovered root causes, implement control measures to reduce the chance of the incident happening again.

10. Follow up. After you put control measures in place, follow up to make sure they were effective.

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