Alva Group Occupational Health and Safety Services

How to Conduct an Accident Investigation

Who Should Investigate?

Supervisors, line managers, or other individuals with enough rank and expertise to make suggestions that the organisation will listen to should lead investigations. The department manager or supervisor of the subject or area under investigation will typically conduct investigations because they:

  • Are aware of the situation;
  • Know the employees;
  • Have a personal interest in preventing other accidents/incidents that may affect their staff, equipment, materials or environment;
  • Can take immediate action to avoid a similar incident;
  • Can communicate most effectively with the employees concerned;
  • Can demonstrate practical concern for employees and control over the immediate work situation.

When Should the Investigation Be Conducted?

To gather as much information as possible, the investigation should be conducted as quickly as possible following the incident. It may be challenging to launch the investigation promptly, for example, if the victim is taken away from the scene of the accident or if a certain expert isn’t available. The benefits of starting an investigation right away include:

  • Physical conditions have had less time to change, factors are still fresh in the minds of witnesses,
  • Witnesses have had less time to talk (there is an almost automatic tendency for people to adjust their story of the events to fit with a consensus view),
  • More people are likely to be present—for example, delivery drivers, contractors, and visitors—who will quickly disperse after an incident.
  • There will probably be the opportunity to take immediate action to prevent a recurrence and to demonstrate management’s commitment to improvement.
  • Immediate information from the person suffering the accident often proves to be most useful.

If the person is physically able, it may be preferable to ask them to return to the accident scene for the accident inquiry rather than waiting for them to report back to work. Visit the injured person at home or even in the hospital (with their permission) to talk about the accident is a second option, albeit it is less beneficial.

Accident Investigation Method

There are four basic elements to a comprehensive investigation:

  1. Collect facts about what has occurred.
  2. Assemble and analyse the information obtained.
  3. Compare the information with acceptable industry and company standards and legal requirements to draw a conclusion.
  4. Implement the findings and monitor progress.

It is important to acquire information from all accessible sources, including witnesses, managers, the environment, hazard data sheets, documented work systems, and training records. However, the time invested shouldn’t be excessive compared to the risk. The investigation ought to investigate the situation for any potential underlying reasons as well as the accident’s most obvious immediate causes. For instance, in a machinery accident, it would not be acceptable to say that a machine’s poor guarding caused the catastrophe. Investigating the potential underlying system failure that may have occurred is necessary.

Investigations have three aspects, which are especially valuable and can be used to compare:

  1. direct observation of the scene, surroundings, and work environment; the connections between parts, materials, and substances being utilized; and any potential reconstruction of the events and the injuries or state of the subject;
  2. written instructions, training records, operational procedures, risk assessments, policies, records of inspections, tests, and examinations, as well as risk assessments;
  3. interviews (including written statements) with injured parties, witnesses, individuals who have performed similar tasks, experts with specialised knowledge, or individuals who have performed examinations and tests on the relevant equipment.

Immediate Causes

The following elements should be thoroughly investigated since they can reveal important details regarding the immediate causes that have manifested in the incident or mishap.

Personal factors:

  • The behaviour of the people involved
  • The suitability of the people doing the work
  • Training and competence

Task factors:

  • Workplace conditions and precautions or controls
  • The actual method of work adopted at the time
  • Ergonomic factors
  • Normal working practice, either written or customary.

Underlying And Root Causes

In order to learn more about the underlying causes that led to the incident or accident, a thorough inquiry should also consider the following elements:

  • Supervisors neglected to inspect the machinery before it started.
  • The risk assessment did not take the danger into account, and there was no appropriate method statement.
  • Production pressures had become more significant.
  • There was a lot of personal pressure on the employee at the time; have there been any other instances similar to this one before?
  • Was the work adequately supervised, controlled, and coordinated?

A “root cause” is an initial failure or event from which all subsequent failures or causes result. General management, planning, or organisational shortcomings are the root causes, including:

  • the effectiveness of the health and safety policies and practices;
  • quality of employee collaboration and consultation;
  • the sufficiency and quality of information and communication;
  • the absence of adequate risk assessments, planning, and control measures;
  • shortcomings in the measuring and monitoring of job activities;
  • the standard and regularity of audits and evaluations.

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