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Jobsite accidents or safety incidents can happen to any company, regardless of how robust your health and safety program is. But it’s how you handle the aftermath of an incident that will ultimately lead to positive resolution and needed change moving forward.
Every company should have an incident investigation plan in place to help you conduct a thorough inspection of what happened, why the incident occurred, and how you can prevent future accidents from happening.
Most companies already have a list of procedures or to-do’s in the event of an incident, but a formal plan pulls all the necessary elements together to create a methodical investigation process. An incident investigation plan is an outlined process of what to do to investigate an incident. The term ‘incident’ can cover a variety of instances, some of which are recognized by OSHA. But companies should take a broader stance on the types of incidents they investigate in order to improve their safety operations. Having a detailed plan ensures that the appropriate incidents are investigated and that nothing falls through the cracks so that a thorough investigation can be conducted.
Documenting certain safety-related incidents is required by law. But even if OSHA or other agencies didn’t require an investigation for a particular type of incident, companies should realize that taking a closer look into what happened can certainly prove beneficial.
By taking the same, methodical approach to every incident, companies are better positioned to detect patterns, gaps, and other details that can help them mitigate their risk in the future. In many cases, companies that use formal investigation plans find that similar scenarios may have happened in the past.
Combined with data related to near misses and workplace observations, companies have a much stronger chance at finding root causes, which can then lead their decision-making to find a desirable, effective resolution.
While there are no hard and fast rules for designing an incident investigation plan, most companies follow a six-step system:
This is what EHS leaders and workers should do immediately following an incident. Making the area safe, preserving the affected for investigation, and contacting management should be involved.
Before you start conducting the investigation, a little planning and forethought can help your efforts be complete and effective. Think about the resources you need for your investigation, the people involved, and how long the process should take.
Data should be collected from a variety of sources to ensure thoroughness. Witnesses, co-workers, security cameras, the scene of the incident, and other data may all be necessary.
Once you’ve collected your data, start putting the pieces together. Most incidents aren’t a single event, but rather a series of events. When determining the cause, it’s important to look for a root cause rather than what made this specific incident occur. Also, it’s important you don’t draw an immediate conclusion so that biases don’t dictate the outcome. Any investigation that sets its purpose on blaming human error is generally misguided.
When determining how to avoid future accidents, it’s all too easy to focus on preventing direct causes. Rather, your corrective actions should also consider root causes that fully eliminate the problem.
Once issues have been resolved, create a detailed report that states the evidence you found and the measures you took to eliminate the issue. You might even make a report publicly available, such as a press conference, presentation, or formal training meeting.
If you already have a plan in place, it’s always a good idea to review it to ensure that it meets your company’s current needs. And if you don’t already have an incident investigation plan, it’s never too late to create one.
EHS software can help you streamline your investigations by providing easy access to the investigation plan and simplifying the process. EHS leaders have all the necessary documents and steps at their fingers to collect and log data on the go and generate deeper insights into every situation.
Featured resource: 8 Investigation Methodologies to Uncover Root Causes
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