Accidents happen in the workplace. It’s an unfortunate but true fact. In despite of all the hard work companies do to avoid accidents, occasionally something goes wrong. When it does it’s important to conduct a thorough investigation into what went wrong. After all, it’s even more of a tragedy if someone else gets hurt or killed in the same way and there was something that could have been done differently to stop it.
The cause of some accidents is obvious, but that’s not always the case. By following clear and concise steps, investigators can uncover underlying causes of a mishap. An Accident Investigation has two main goals. One is to determine the cause of the accident. The other is to use this information to prevent similar accidents from happening in the future. Everyone in a company should be ready to help investigators solve the investigation. While this may be difficult for some employees, they need to be reminded of the ultimate goal of the investigation – a safer workplace.
How to Investigate an Accident Or Incident in 9 Easy Steps
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.
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.
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.
While a lot can be learned from accidents, we can learn also learn from “near misses” as well. Those incidents that didn’t involve an accident but could have easily had terrible result. Make sure that near-misses are always reported so that your supervisor can address them. The information learned from a near-miss is far less expensive than what is learned from an accident. Remember, prevention is always the best cure.
No matter how safe workers do their jobs, an accident can always happen. Make sure you follow the basic steps to enable accident investigators to do their job correctly and find the “root cause” of the incident. An accident investigation can create a safer workplace and that’s good for everyone. Who knows it might save a life some day.