9 Steps to Investigating an Accident

As we celebrate our 100th year in business in 2015, we embark on another century of commitment to our policyholders. Our mission is to protect the livelihoods of our policyholders, and, as the saying goes, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. In keeping with that theme, we’ll celebrate our 100th year in business with 100 important tips to help identify, evaluate and prevent dangers that could result in financial loss or injury in a year-long “Safe with Society” blog series.

The primary focus of all work environments should be to prevent accidents. When accidents do happen, we must investigate them to understand how to prevent reoccurrence. To conduct a successful investigation you will need to observe the scene, interview victims and witnesses, evaluate the facts, and determine the root causes to understand how the accident occurred. It is important to remember that an investigation is a fact-finding and not a fault-finding activity. Your goal is to understand the chain of events, how it happened, why it happened, and what must be done to prevent another employee injury from the same cause.

Root causes contribute to the occurrence of an accident, and fall into four broad categories: environment, material, people and procedures, equipment.

Follow these nine basic steps in the accident investigation process:

  1. First, determine if anyone needs immediate medical treatment.
  2. As soon as possible after the accident, get the names of victims, witnesses, and anyone who can provide relevant information (people who work in the area and those who assisted at the scene).
  3. If possible, take pictures of the unaltered scene.
  4. Conduct one-on-one interviews in a private, neutral setting.
  5. Question the victim as soon as possible; facts will be clearer and more accurate.
  6. Ask open-ended questions (ones that can’t be answered yes or no). Be careful not to ask leading questions.
  7. Document everything. Have interviewees read your notes and sign off; if possible, it is best to have the victims and witnesses write and diagram the incident in their own handwriting.
  8. Analyze all of the information gathered to get beyond the obvious and determine the root cause(s).
  9. Develop, implement, and track corrective action items to completion.

Click here for a helpful handout on accident investigation to print and keep handy.

Our risk control team is available to help facilitate your safety and health efforts. Learn more about this collaborative and consultative partnership, as well as the exclusive safety resources developed to keep your workplace safe and profitable.

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