Over the years, managers and leaders have written thousands of articles about the very complicated causes of accidents in the workplace. The consensus of opinion is that there is not normally one single cause of an accident or an incident. Instead, there are normally a combination of factors that contribute to the accident. These all come together under just the right circumstances to create an accident. Management thinking has moved on from the proposition that accidents just”happen.” But this has been replaced with a culture of blame.
The problem of accident causation and prevention appears to be a hugely complex problem. However, some industries have proved beyond doubt that it is possible to prevent or control the causes of accidents. For most industries, it doesn’t require huge resources to be successful in preventing accidents and incidents.
To better understand the circumstances that give rise to undesirable incidents, it would be wise to consider the four major elements that provide the source of accidents in the workplace.
Elements of a Root Cause Analysis
The first element is people. This includes everybody from the workers upwards. Its been well established that people are involved in a high percentage of incident causes. Normally, it’s the staff member that is the human element directly involved in an undesirable incident. What they do or don’t do is seen as one of the most common causal factors.
The second element is equipment. This includes tools and machinery. Since we have been using tools and machinery, they have been identified as one of the major causes of incidents and accidents. Because of this they have been targeted by legislation that has made provision for machine guarding and training. The improper design of controls on machinery and equipment are frequently found to be the cause of many incidents related to safety quality and output.
The third element is material. This is the stuff that people work with. Material can be sharp, heavy, hot or even toxic. Coming in contact with such things as explosives, chemicals such as solvents, dusts and noise can be a substantial source of undesirable incidents.
The fourth element is the environment. This is all parts of the physical surroundings and include such things as the quality of air, lighting, heat, cold, humidity, fumes and even moisture. Increasingly, the environment is being identified as the cause of an ever-increasing number of diseases and health related conditions. It is associated with absenteeism and low work quality.
The EHS Center offers additional components of an Accident Investigation Program
These four elements, to a greater or lesser degree, provide the source of causes that contribute to an undesirable incident. The investigation should include a scrutiny of one or all of these factors to pinpoint the cause of the incident or accident.