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Work Health and Safety Blog

There's so much happening in the world of health & safety. Changes in legislation and requirements, changes in best practice, changes in ... you name it. Here's my take on making it simple. Simply Genius WHS - stop guessing... manage with confidence.

Accident & incidents - How to conduct an investigation?

Maralyn Kastel - Monday, March 29, 2010

What is an accident or incident?
Accidents and incidents are unplanned, unwanted, but controllable events which disrupts the work process and causes injury to people or property.

Most workplace injuries and illness are not due to “accidents”. Often they are a predictable or foreseeable eventuality.

Definition: “an unforeseen event”, “chance”, “unexpected happening”

From experience and analysis: they are “caused occurrences” that is:
  • Predictable - the logical outcome of hazards
  • font-family: verdana;">Preventable and avoidable - hazards do not have to exist.  They are caused by things people do -- or fail to do

An incident may disrupt the work process, but does not always result in injury or damage. These are your “wake up calls”.  They are the first of a series of events which can lead to a situation in which harm or damage does occur in the future.

Example of an incident A 50 kg carton that falls from the top shelf of a high rack and lands near a worker is an event that is unplanned, unwanted, and has the potential for injury.

Investigating an incident: What is the worst outcome, equipment damage, or injury to a worker?  What could be the severity of the worst outcome? If it could result in significant property loss or a serious injury, then investigate this in the same way as an accident investigation.

Why do an investigation?

  1. To prevent future incidents / or accidents happening in the future
  2. Identify and eliminate hazards in the workplace
  3. Find gaps in the work process
  4. Determine if machinery is faulty
  5. Reduce the risks of injuries and accidents
  6. Reduce the risk of increase worker’s compensation

What are the main steps to conducting an investigation?

  1. Make a plan
  2. Prepare the investigation kit
  3. Investigate all incidents and accidents immediately
  4. Collect only the facts
  5. Talk with witnesses
  6. Write a report

Conduct and document an investigation that answers:

  1. Who was present?
  2. What activities were occurring?
  3. What happened?
  4. Where and what time?
  5. Why did it happen?<

Examine

  1. Is this a company or industry, or work task hazard?
  2. Has previous action been taken to control this hazard?
  3. What are those actions?
  4. Is this a training issue?
  5. Use the WHY – WHY cause analysis technique to find the cause(s) that allowed the accident/incident or near hit to occur. 

What’s in an investigation kit?
The following are suggested contents of an accident investigation kit.

  1. Authority to proceed with investigation
  2. Photographic equipment – camera or video
  3. Recording equipment – pens, pencils, markers, voice recorder
  4. Measuring equipment – tape measure, thermometer
  5. Protective equipment as necessary – eg gloves, ear plugs, goggles, headgear, overalls etc
  6. Sample containers, glass jars, plastic bags
  7. Barriers – barrier tape, high visibility tape as appropriate to rope off the area
  8. Labels and tags
  9. Envelopes
  10. Graph paper
  11. Container or marked box to carry the equipment and samples
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