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How to Conduct an Accident Investigation

Even the most carefully laid plans can be disrupted by unexpected events. To minimise the impact of unforeseen circumstances, you must prepare by anticipating problems that might occur and develop strategies to handle them. Effective emergency management plans can help workers and supervisors better manage the effects of an accident or disaster. You should evaluate any policies or procedures you have implemented to reduce the likelihood of accidents and injuries. The information you gather from the investigation of accidents and incidents can be used to prevent similar events in the future and help improve your overall risk management. This process will help you pinpoint areas of your risk assessment that need to be revised. A reasonable investigation comprises three parts: gathering information, organising that information into categories and making sense of what you've learned.

Why do you need to investigate?

Investigations into health and safety form an essential part of monitoring. You can learn extensively about how things are going by objectively looking at the incidents.

- Investigation of accidents and ill-health claims is essential to ensure health and safety legislation compliance.

- If you thoroughly investigate an incident and take remedial action to prevent further occurrences, a court will see that your company takes health and safety seriously.

- Your investigation findings may be helpful to your insurers if a claim is filed.

A risk investigation can help you determine how existing risk control measures failed and identify improvements or additional steps to prevent a similar failure from occurring. It can also help you with the following:

- Provide a realistic picture of work, including the kinds of shortcuts workers take when they can get away with it and how rules are sometimes ignored.

- Minimise the likelihood of encountering a similar risk in the future.

- Teach others in your organisation.

- Show your commitment to effective health and safety practices contributing to employee morale.

Investigating potential hazards, such as near misses or undesired outcomes that have not caused harm but may do so in the future, is just as important as investigating accidents.

Health and safety agents have the right to:

- Ensure that workplace hazards and dangerous occurrences are investigated.

- Analyse the causes of workplace accidents so that they can be prevented.

- All employers are legally obliged to report incidents on-site. They must report any injuries that occur while on the job and illnesses caused or aggravated by work-related activities.

- Employers should take steps to investigate incidents independently, even if they have already reported those incidents.

What should be reported?

- All work-related deaths, including those caused by acts of physical violence toward workers, must be reported, except suicide.

- Fractures

- Amputations

- Injury leading to a loss of sights

- Injuries to the head or body leading to damage to the brain or other internal organs

- Significant burns, either thermal or chemical

- Fainting caused by a head injury or choking

- Injuries which lead to hypothermia

- Injuries which require an over 24-hour hospitalisation.

In the event of unexpected occurrences, the management must have the plan to deal with any immediate risks. Leaders must be informed about accidents, safety incidents or cases of work-related illness and ensure that people are held accountable for accidents. Analysing the accident/incident history of others in your own or similar industries, asking yourself a question like 'What could we learn from their mistakes?', should provide a solution for future health and safety within the organisation.

Managers must formulate plans about what workers must report and communicate how the reporting procedures will be communicated to them.

The company should provide training on how work-related ill health, accidents or near misses should be notified, who will investigate the incident and which actions will be taken due to that investigation.

The managers also must:

- Ensure that procedures for reporting work are effective.

- Examine all incident reports and identify trends

- When deciding how many investigations to conduct, be reasonable and proportionate. Figure out what happened—when it occurred, where, and why. Collect evidence to understand the situation clearly and compare your conclusions against whatever guidelines or standards for safe operating apply in that setting.

- Ideally, an investigation should begin as soon as possible after the accident before the evidence gets lost.

- When solving a problem, look for the underlying causes rather than symptoms.

- Record all the findings for a potential formal investigation

- Hire consulting firms to help with complex studies, like those necessary, when there is a danger of significant accidents.

- Worker representatives should be invited to planning meetings and all target-setting processes. They should be included in all performance management and monitoring processes and have a say in decisions that could affect them and their jobs.


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