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November 23, 2021

The Process of Investigating Workplace Incidents

You don’t like to think about what might happen when things go horribly wrong. But sometimes, despite your best efforts, something still goes awry.

And when that happens, you need to be prepared for what comes next–and how to handle the fallout the right way. It might sound like a simple question. In reality, doing it the wrong way could get you into even more trouble, not just in terms of regulatory compliance, but also in terms of an unhealthy workplace safety culture. Here’s what managers should know.

The Process of Investigating a Workplace Incident

The process of investigating a safety incident will generally look like this:

  • Assess the injury
  • Obtain medical care if necessary
  • Interview employees and witnesses
  • Observe the accident scene
  • Analyze the available facts
  • File a workers’ compensation claim
  • Follow up with the injured employee
  • Identify and pursue corrective action

Throughout the investigation, regardless of the type of accident, the goal should always be the same: to identify the root cause and prevent it from happening again.

The trick here is where other employees fit into the picture.

What Should Be Investigated

OSHA strongly encourages employers to investigate all incidents in which an employee was hurt, as well as near misses where someone was at serious risk of getting hurt if the circumstances surrounding the incident had gone slightly differently.

This includes:

  • Fatalities
  • Injuries
  • Illnesses
  • Close calls

Remember, a close call is one step away from being a recordable incident, and if you don’t address the root causes, next time it will be a recordable incident.

Who Should Conduct the Investigation?

So, who should do the investigating? Ideally, an investigation should be completed by someone with knowledge of sound investigative techniques, who understands causation models, who knows legal guidelines, and who is knowledgeable of that particular work situation, among other things. In other words, you should always have at least one experienced EHS team member involved in an investigation.

However, while OSHA does not require that incident investigations include employees, it strongly recommends that employers include their workers in such investigations.

Remember, while EHS teams have the analytical tools and skills to pursue root causes, employees were the ones on-site when the accident happened. They’re the ones who work this job day in and day out. They can provide critical details that an EHS manager might otherwise overlook.

There’s also the matter of safety culture. You want employees to be committed to safety, which means involving them in the process of correcting issues when something goes wrong. This cultivates a sense of ownership and accountability.

Your Partner in EHS Compliance

As for the tools, that’s where we come in, with incident management software that allows you to dive deep into what really happened with a powerful, intuitive dashboard. That way, you have the data you need to make informed decisions and take the right corrective actions.

Sound good? Then get in touch today to learn more.

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