When an accident happens in the workplace, it is critical to conduct an accident investigation to determine the root cause of the events that led to the accident or injury. The point of the investigation should never be to assign blame, but rather to uncover the factors that led to accident so you can take corrective action to prevent it from happening again.
Get the overall picture by interviewing the people who know most about the accident or incident. This will enable you to carry out a thorough accident investigation.
The 9 steps to conducting an effective accident investigation interview are:
1) Create the “right” environment. Create an atmosphere of co-operation. Explain reason for the interview- prevention. Ask for person’s help. Ask your questions and listen carefully to the answers. Make notes and draw diagrams.
2) Interview as close as possible to the site of the accident/incident. This helps the accuracy of the witnesses because they are able to point and sometimes demonstrate what actually happened. At this stage, make absolutely certain you know where the witness was standing when the accident or the incident took place. This is because sometimes witnesses could not have seen what actually happened from where they were standing. There is a tendency for witnesses to assume what actually happened, even when they didn’t see it.
3) Discussions should be private. When you interview the witnesses, interview them one at a time. This will give you better information and there is no conflict with witnesses arguing about what happened. If descriptions don’t match there is only one option. Re-interview
4) Get the person’s perception of the accident/incident. Make sure that there is no outside influence or bias and as you listen remember to try not to interrupt. At this stage you are gathering information only. There is no need to evaluate the accident or the incident until you have collected all the information possible.
5) Listen more than you talk. Encourage the person to talk, listen to the answers and help the person not to become defensive or accept any blame for the accident or incident. Remember, the more they talk, the more you will learn.
The EHS Center offers to members many components of an accident investigation program
6) Repeat the story back once you have heard it. Once you have heard the witness’s account firstly check your understanding by repeating the account back to the witness. This gives the person a chance to hear what they’ve said and correct or confirm it. The repetition allows the words and meanings to be matched.
7) End the discussion by thanking the person for their help. Thank the person for their help and cooperation and repeat that you are gathering information so that this sort of incident can be prevented in the future.
8) Note vital information at once. Make notes rather than try to write down the complete dialogue unless the person gave you some really critical information.
9) Keep open the opportunity for further communication. Give the person the opportunity to get back to you in case they remember something at a later date. It always pays to go back to the person the following day or so, and have a casual conversation about the incident. Often vital information is a gathered at this point.