Accident Investigation – How to Get it Right

Today we’re going to take a detailed look at what to do when there’s an accident in the workplace, taking a look at your obligations and what can be done to ensure that a similar accident doesn’t happen again.   A thorough accident investigation will help you to understand the fundamental reason why the accident happened, as well as its immediate cause.  This will help you to make the necessary improvements to help prevent accidents occurring in the future.  It will also enable you to improve your safety culture and, by gathering all the relevant information, it can be used in the event of any claims made.  The information will also be useful when notifying insurers and meeting any regulatory requirement to report under RIDDOR (Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations 2013) which requires employers, the self-employed and those in control of premises to report specified incidents in the workplace.

In the immediate aftermath of an accident, call on a first aider and then it’s important to isolate the area and preserve the scene by keeping staff and customers away until the area has been made safe again.

When it comes to investigating the accident, a team investigation is usually preferable to a one person investigation and, if your organisation is large enough, you may consider involving line managers, supervisors, directors, union safety representatives, employee representatives and health and safety professionals. 

Key Facts to Gather during an Accident Investigation.

When carrying out the accident investigation, you will need to ask the following questions:

·         Who?

·         What?

·         When?

·         Where?

·         How?

Answering these questions will help you to gather all the necessary information necessary to compile a comprehensive accident report.  You should also consider taking photos, taking measurements (for example, distance fallen, damage deflection, equipment in use, etc.).  If there is CCTV footage available of the area where the accident took place, make sure that you view it closely in case there is anything that could help with the investigation.  Interview witnesses to the accident and make comprehensive notes of these interviews.  Record any environmental factors at the time of the accident – for example, was it dark or light or hot or cold at the time?  Perform a thorough check of all the relevant Health and Safety paperwork, including risk assessments, safe systems of working, training records, equipment inspection and maintenance logs. 

Next week we’ll be taking a look at what to do if the accident seems to be largely as a result of human error.  We’ll also consider how to ensure that staff are informed of accidents and what can be done to promote a long term change that will bring about the improvements necessary to prevent similar accidents recurring in future.