As business owners, or managers, there are a few things that can keep us awake at night: paying the bills, having enough work, having too much work, and our workers having an accident. Accidents do happen, our job is to put systems in place to prevent them.
One way we can do this is by investigating all accidents. This includes accidents which result in injury, and those that result in property damage. It’s also essential that we investigate near misses. These are a golden opportunity to identify a risk and correct it before damage or injury occurs.
The level of investigation will depend on the accident. Sometimes, a talk between the manager, or foreman, and the worker is sufficient. Sometimes, a full-blown investigation is needed. There are times when an independent, or qualified person is needed.
The Basic Steps
There are some basic steps which should be followed regardless of the level of the investigation:
Look at the accident site; take a lot of photos.
Talk to the people involved, including any witnesses. Try to confirm evidence by finding two sources of information. I always ask, what was different this time, what would you do differently next time, what do you think would stop it happening again?
Look further back than the accident. It probably started well before the actual event
Check over plant and equipment to identify any malfunctions; and that it is still fit for use following the accident.
Putting it Together
Once we have all the information, we need to put it together to understand the timeline, and flow of the accident. This will help us understand what really went wrong.
It is very easy to blame the involved worker(s). It is true that the accident wouldn’t have happened without the people, but we lose a chance to improve our business by doing this. Workers make mistakes, or take shortcuts, all the time. The systems we put in place prevent these actions being harmful. So, in an accident investigation, we are looking for the system that needs to be fixed, modified or created. Telling people not to do things never works. Changing the boundaries they operate within, will make a difference.
Once we identify the systems that need improving, we must create an action plan. This should include a person who is accountable, and a timeframe. It is good practice to have a senior manager sign off when it is completed.
How can Safewise help?
We work with organisations who need more health and safety knowledge, or more time, than they have in house.