All too often in
the typical organization, you'll hear people griping about doing another accident
investigation. What a pain! Get it done any way you can! Strange, isn't
it? If your safety and health program works and you get to zero accidents, you
don't have to do investigations. But, until you get there, investigations open
a great window into the culture and nature of the organizations and give you
a clear look into why things are going wrong. And, in case you hadn't noticed,
an accident is a thing gone wrong.
First, let's be
clear on the purpose of accident investigations. This is a positive process! Our intent is prevention and correction. We're trying to change the
culture! It is never blame! In business and industry, blame
is counter-productive. Sure, criminal investigations and insurance companies
need to find blame; that's how charges are assessed. But, that's not the case
in the workplace.
Next, let's consider
what accidents we need to investigate. If they are to serve their purpose, you've
got to know about them. As a general rule, your should investigate:
- All injuries ... even the very minor ones.
- All accidents with potential for injury.
- Property damage,
product damage, and "near miss" situations so you can consider the root causes.
- Every injury
or illness entered on the OSHA Injury and Illness Log.
How the investigation
gets conducted is a matter of company policy and assigned responsibility. Some
companies call an accident investigation team for every incident. In others,
the safety director does the investigation. Sometimes, several people do an
independent examination of the circumstances and all make entries on the investigation
form. However it's done, two people really must be involved if at all possible.
One is the injured or impacted employee. He or she can clear up a lot of confusion
by telling what happened and why it occurred.
The other person
who needs to be involved is the supervisor or team leader. He or she should
be accountable for accidents in his/her area, hopefully knows the situation
and the people best, has a personal interest in cause identification, can take
immediate corrective action, and needs this opportunity to show leadership.
Much is available
on how to conduct an investigation, but remember to preserve the physical environment and records. You'll need these for more
As for the report
form, a wide variety are available from vendors and others. Pick what works.
Again, a couple of tips are pertinent here. First, use the report for prevention.
Don't hide it! Second, do not allow anyone to include the words " I told the
person to be more careful" under corrective action. They finger the injured
individual, leave the solution totally up to him or her, and show that you don't
have a clue how to deal with the situation.