One of the best ways to avoid further accidents is to understand how an accident occurred and how to avoid that type of accident in the future. Accident investigation is a tool. The goal is not to lay blame.
The goal in an accident investigation is to:
An accident, a near miss and an incident should all be investigated.
ACCIDENT—an undesired event or sequence of events causing injury, ill-health or property damage.
NEAR MISS—near misses describe incidents where, given a slight shift in time or distance, injury, ill-health or damage easily could have occurred, but didn’t this round.
INCIDENT—an incident is an unplanned, undesired event that hinders completion of a task and may cause injury or other damage.
Equipment that may come in handy:
The investigation should answer six questions:
Interview all people involved. Look for all the causes. Do not fall into the trap of blaming the employee, even if the person admits causing the event. Investigate the procedures, supervisor’s directives, training, machinery, weather, you get the idea. The entity’s accident, incident and near-miss reporting forms should be designed to give guidance.
Properly document all accident investigations using the entity’s approved investigation form. The form should make it simple to remember what questions to ask, be easy to understand and complete, and be filed and retained in chronological order.
Investigation reports are not to be released to anyone without authorization.
Review all accident, incident and near-miss investigations occurring since the last safety committee meeting at the next safety meeting.
Accident Investigation, The University of Warwick, Safety Office, April 2003
Accident Investigation, 2nd edition, National Safety Council
Mueller, Cathy, Incident Investigation SHRM White Paper, Society for Human Resource Management, Washington, DC.
Safety and Health Program Management Fact Sheets, Accident/Incident Investigation, Module 4, Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA)