26th Nov, 2019 Read time 3 minutes

6 steps towards good accident investigation

One of the key steps in ensuring an accident in a workplace never happens again is to make sure a proper investigation is carried out into the cause of the incident. This is where accident investigation comes in. This is the process of collecting and collating information and data that led to the contribution of a workplace incident; be it damage to property or even loss of human life.

The main aim of an investigation is to identify the root cause of an accident and stop this from impacting on work practices in the future. Here are some simple steps to follow to make sure you are conducting good accident investigation.

It is worth noting before we proceed that an investigation can be initiated in a variety of circumstances. These can range from an accident/incident to a near miss or undesired circumstance in the workplace.  Our guide discusses the types of events that may require investigation.


Step 1: start the information gathering process

The first step is to gather as much information as possible on the accident. This will help you to establish a timeline and possible contributing factors to the incident. The next step is to establish the facts.


Step 2: get the facts of the incident

Getting the relevant facts of the incident may be challenging if you were not present but it is not impossible. Examine the area and look for tell-tale signs of malfunction. These can range from cracks, spills, burns, leaks and splits. Make sure you take a photographic record of your findings as they will be useful further down the line.


Step 3: find out the contributing factors to the accident

When you have recorded and gotten an idea of the general incident you should start to think about contributing factors. These can come in a variety of sources, ranging from design and human. Try to think beyond the obvious, look at how the design and style of the work may have impacted on the incident. Human behaviour is more difficult to measure but look for signs of fatigue, lack of training and carelessness.


Step 4: work out the root causes of the damage

From the contributing factors to the incident it is time to work out some root causes. We recommend not narrowing yourself down to theory here. Obvious issues such as an improperly secured ladder should be considered alongside why the ladder fell (such as excess or improperly distributed weight).


Step 5: develop actionable methods to reduce the likelihood of reoccurrence

The natural step to follow after you have worked out the root causes of the incident is to work out how you can prevent it in the future. This can include changes in equipment or changes in policy in the workplace.


Step 6: implement the actionable steps

The final step of the accident investigation process may seem obvious but many organisations fail to implement adequate changes. Whilst upgrading equipment is simple more subtle factors like changes in human behaviour can be more difficult to put in place. For this reason, we recommend developing a process for accident investigation that all in the organisation are encouraged to follow.

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