One of the best ways to prevent tomorrow’s accident is to investigate the causes of accidents that happen today. A good accident investigation is not unlike like a crime scene investigation. The difference is that the culprit we look for is a cause, not a person. The purpose of an accident investigation is not to place blame on anyone. We need to get in, examine the scene and gather evidence before anything is moved or changes, and interview witnesses while the experience is fresh in their minds. Once we know the details about how an accident occurred, we piece all this information together in an effort to understand why the incident happened. Knowing why something happens is the first step in making sure it doesn’t happen again.
Employees play an extremely important role in the investigation process. Here’s what you can do to help:
- Report all incidents and “close calls” right away. The “close calls” are just as important to document and investigate as actual accidents. The next time the same conditions come about, the outcome will most likely be injury or worse.
- Even if nobody was hurt, supervision needs to know what happened so that steps can be taken to prevent future problems.
- If you witness an accident, remember what happened. If you need to, write down what you see as soon as possible. Remember the 5 “W’s” – who , what, where, when and why.
- Don’t disturb the accident scene. You may destroy valuable evidence that investigators need to figure out exactly what happened, and why.
- Provide whatever information you have. Avoid placing value on what you describe – seemingly inconsequential details are often very valuable to an investigator. Come forward with what you know right away. Employee cooperation is essential to the investigation’s success.
- Offer any expertise you may have to the investigation. If you have special knowledge about the equipment or procedures involved, the circumstances surrounding the accident, or other information you be uniquely in possession of, tell what you know and offer your suggestions and insight.
- Encourage co-workers to cooperate as well. Remind them that the purpose of investigations is to prevent future incidents—incidents that could involve them.
- Join with co-workers to implement corrective measures. Follow any new safety rules that result from an investigation.
Central Florida Safety Academy