How to Investigate Workplace Accidents

checklist-154274_1280Your business exists to make a profit.  Your business decisions are based on sales, costs, profits, and losses.  Keeping accurate records is essential in making your business successful.  Patterns found in your financial records influence your decisions.

Investigation and recordkeeping of accidents, related injuries, and property loss serve the same purpose.  Determining patterns of accidents will influence your decisions.

Accident investigation is a very important tool in your safety program.  Use careful thought and sound judgment when investigating.  Accidents seldom have a single cause.  Get all the details. Be specific.

  1. Question your injured employee as soon as possible.  Question all witnesses to the accident.  Have your witnesses draw sketches when necessary.
  2. Don’t ask “Why” questions.  Ask “What” questions. “What” questions are more objective and don’t imply fault and the possibility of blame. Examples: “What were you doing at the time of the accident?” (Not: “Why did this happen?”) “What was your reasoning for being there rather than at your work station? (Not: “Why weren’t you at your work station?”) “What caused the equipment to fail?” (Not: “Why did your equipment fail?”)
  3. Keep asking questions.  Don’t settle for, “It was employee negligence.  It was faulty equipment.”
  4. Involve your employees in investigating accidents.  This will make them feel like they are a part of the effort to make your workplace safe.  Use confidential interviews.  Listen to your employees’ findings.  Take their suggestions seriously.  Use employee awareness, acceptance, and participation to your advantage.  Your ultimate goal is to eliminate accidents.  Not employees. 
  5. After you have compiled all the details, all witness statements, all the facts, use them.  Compare your findings with findings in other accidents  Ask yourself questions and look for patterns such as:
  • Environment – Are the accidents occurring in the same department?
  • Type of Job – Do the accidents happen with a certain type of job?
  • Time – Are the accidents occurring at a certain time?
  • Type of Injury  – Do the accidents all involve the same type of injury?
  • Equipment – Is it always an equipment failure? Is it mishandling of equipment?
  • Employees – Is it the same employee, or random employees having the accidents?

If accidents are random, are the employees getting proper training?

Review your accidents regularly.  Determine the accident patterns you have in your workplace.  Then take the correct actions to prevent similar accidents from happening in the future.


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