Special Topics in Safety Management

Accident Investigation Finds Out Why

If a company conducts a proper accident investigation, it may be used as a basis for collecting data to find causes and prevent recurrences. This goal can only be achieved if the entire procedure is a fact-finding mission rather than a method for placing blame on someone.

Avoiding blame is especially important when interviewing witnesses who have a tendency to protect themselves. Get signed and dated statements from people who have first hand knowledge of the accident. Be objective in collecting the data.

In ferreting out the causes, pay attention to both physical conditions and personal behavior. Many incidents are due to insufficient job training. Corrective procedures should therefore include training and supervision.

Accidents are usually the result of many causes, some of which may be interrelated. Avoid using “carelessness” as a cause. It is too general and can’t be corrected.

Investigate all accidents, even small ones that may be a precursor to more serious incidents. Here are some tips of how to conduct a thorough and meaningful investigation:

  • Start the investigation immediately after the accident has occurred and the area has been safeguarded.
  • Interview all possible witnesses. Use a tape recorder.
  • Write down all significant information. Edit and review later.
  • Provide definite recommendations and a schedule of corrective actions.
  • Follow up to ensure that actions have been taken.
  • Prepare a final report and hold meetings with all departments that could benefit from the information in the report.
  • Coordinate with insurance companies and prepare forms for reporting accidents.

If you are as objective as possible in your investigation, your company will reap the benefits of preventive actions taken in response to lessons learned.