How to Conduct a Workplace Accident Investigation

Topics: Loss Control

Summary: Performing a workplace accident investigation is vital in helping employers prevent future incidents and improving employee health, safety and productivity. Learn how to create a proper investigation plan and the steps for investigating accidents in the workplace.

Why Perform an Accident Investigation at Work?

Workplace accidents are unplanned, unexpected events, but as undesirable as they may be, they offer employers the opportunity to learn more about their safety procedures and policies. Properly investigating a workplace accident is the first step toward avoiding future incidents, injuries and financial losses. Accidents provide the opportunity to understand how to change dangerous conditions while also increasing employee performance and productivity.

What Should an Accident Investigation Plan Include?

Every company and its individual departments should create an accident investigation plan. This plan will be implemented immediately following an incident, as time is of the essence. A written plan should include the following:
  • Who is in charge
  • The complete chain of command listing all those to be notified and when, including at night and on weekends
  • Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) which should be at the scene
  • Special transportation or communication needs
  • How to gain access to the site for as long as necessary
  • Who will record interviews of supervisors, employees involved in the accident, and other witnesses
  • Who will take photographs and gather evidence that might be destroyed or changed, such as weather conditions or contaminated clothing
  • Who will prepare the final report

The Steps of an Accident Investigation

OSHA recommends that when starting an accident investigation, it’s important to focus on identifying and correcting the root causes of the incident. It’s often easier to assume an employee was careless or a procedure simply wasn’t followed rather than look into why it happened in the first place. It’s important to remember that most workplace accidents are entirely preventable, especially by taking the time to examine the current health and safety programs for any shortcomings.

The goal of an accident investigation is to determine what, why and how the incident occurred. It will discover what systems broke down to allow the accident to take place. Often, it may be discovered that many similar, but smaller, near-miss accidents have happened previously.

As soon as the accident occurs, the investigation should begin once medical treatment or aid has been given to the injured employee(s). First, let employees know that no blame is being placed and that the intention of the investigation is to learn the facts and understand how to prevent a future incident. Then, the steps of a workplace accident investigation should include the following:
  • Contact the correct individual or group to start the investigation
  • Secure the area where the incident occurred, leaving it untouched
  • Find and interview any witnesses to the accident
  • If possible, interview the injured employee
  • Take photos or videos of the scene
  • Determine the root cause of the incident and complete the accident report, including what actions must take place to prevent future occurrences
  • Create or edit existing policies to include the corrective actions identified in the investigation process

Once a shortcoming in any health or safety procedure is found, OSHA recommends that employers discern why it existed and why it was never addressed previously. Ask the following questions:
  • Why was the procedure not followed?
  • Was the procedure outdated?
  • Was safety training completed regularly?
  • Why was the inadequate procedure or training not addressed?
Following the investigation, a written accident investigation report should be created and shared. The report should be accurate, detailed, include a description of the causes of the incident and the suggested corrections. When employees understand why the incident occurred, it will be less likely that a similar accident will happen again. From providing information to learning from the investigation, supervisors, managers and employees can all play a role in ensuring a safe workplace for everyone.

Analyzing and Grouping Workplace Accidents

Although no two incidents are the same, accidents do tend to follow general patterns. To go a step further in the accident investigation process, employers should analyze and group accidents to help uncover relative patterns. The information gathered in the investigation reports can be tabulated into a group or category, allowing the employer to draw conclusions regarding the incident.

One method of analyzing the data is to select a topic from the accident reports and record the number of accidents that have occurred during any period of the selected time. Examples of areas of information can be:
  • Department where the injury occurred
  • Occupation of the injured employee
  • Type of accident (fall, slip, struck by, strain)
  • Part of the body injured
  • Equipment involved (press, saw, hand tools)
  • Task being performed at the time of injury
  • Age of injured employee
  • Experience on the job
  • Nature and severity of the injury
  • Unsafe act
  • Reason for an unsafe act
  • Mechanical or physical hazard
  • Name of the employee involved
  • Day of the week, month, etc.
After analyzing the data, determine the common factors in the highest percentage of accidents. It may be necessary to do additional research to find out why these key features were the most common. These conclusions will help employers understand what to focus on to help prevent future accidents.

Loss Control Services From AmTrust Financial

The Loss Control department at AmTrust specializes in risk management solutions to help prevent employee injuries and improve safety in the workplace. We can help assess the specific hazards facing businesses through either onsite consultations or by leveraging our Virtual+ loss control visits. Take a proactive approach in reducing accidents and injuries and improving employee safety by contacting us today.

This material is for informational purposes only and is not legal or business advice. Neither AmTrust Financial Services, Inc. nor any of its subsidiaries or affiliates represents or warrants that the information contained herein is appropriate or suitable for any specific business or legal purpose. Readers seeking resolution of specific questions should consult their business and/or legal advisors. Coverages may vary by location. Contact your local RSM for more information.

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