Accident Investigation – How to Get it Right – Part 2

Last week we had a look at accident investigation and gave some advice on how to get this right, and how a stringent accident investigation can aid duty holders in understanding the fundamental reason as to why the accident happened.  Once you know the immediate cause of the accident you can use the information gathered to make the requisite improvements that will help to prevent a similar accident from occurring in the future.  This, in turn, will improve your company’s safety culture.  Today we’re going to be looking at what needs to be done if it’s discovered that the accident seems to be the result of human error and the long-term changes that will result in the necessary improvements to ensure similar accidents don’t happen again.

When human error (for example, operator error) appears to be the main factor in an accident there are several issues that need to be considered:

·If the accident was a result of a deliberate, malicious violation or sabotage of workplace safety precautions, then disciplinary action will need to be taken.

·If it seems that the accident happened due to a slip, such as a lapse of memory, or a genuine mistake, then the most effective method of preventing similar accidents in future would be to introduce checklists, interlocks and additional training.

·If the accident resulted from the deliberate breaking of rules or cutting corners during the task at hand, the likelihood of a recurrence can be reduced through future training, staff monitoring and active supervision.

A failure to manage human errors of this type could easily create a blame culture which risks alienating the workforce and undermining the company’s safety culture.  It’s also vital that you consider other “job factors” which may have influenced human behaviour – issues such as production pressure, long shifts, time pressures, competence issues and distractions. 

In the aftermath of the accident, as soon as you have all the data available, you should compile an action plan with timescales and responsibilities for all relevant persons to implement risk control improvements and monitor them closely.  The risk assessments should be reviewed too and any amendments made communicated effectively to all of the relevant staff. 

When an ongoing accident investigation is taking place, it’s vital that staff are kept informed and notified immediately of the changes and improvements that you intend to implement.  If your business has multiple sites it’s a good idea to consider issuing safety memos or alerts on a company wide basis to ensure that the necessary improvements impact your business as a whole. 

You may also find it useful to review your staff training policy and consider extra training for staff members which can improve safety culture throughout the company, boost staff morale and prevent similar types of accident recurring in the future.