Industrial Accident Investigation Procedures

In this article, we will learn about how to investigate an industrial accident. Within this article, we will use term of accident, in order to describe an event that causes injury, property damage or death.

It is extremely important to find out the cause of an industrial accident or workplace accident in general. All accidents that occur in the plant site both minor and major accidents have to be reported as quickly as possible. The accidents are then investigated to identify the causes and set up proper control measures to avoid accident recurrence.

Determining the underlying causes of an accident is one of the most important aspects of workplace accident investigation.

Underlying cause may accompany each main cause of the accident. However, in many cases we often forget about this and do not perform the investigation until it is finished completely. Let’ take an example. Some people may agree that the cause of accident (slips) on a wet floor was the wet floor. It is actually the immediate cause not the root cause.

What we have to determine is the root cause or underlying cause, not the immediate cause. In the above example, we have to determine why water was on the floor. Did the water come from leaked valve, pipe or equipment? Or has someone dropped the water? How long did the water on the floor before the accident happened? This information is much more important and useful.

By knowing the root cause, we will get many benefits for our long term safety, because we already known how to prevent such accident in the future.

Industrial Accident Investigation Procedures

Okay, now we will talk about the procedures of industrial accident investigation. The procedures contain five main stages, namely reporting, gathering information, analyzing the information, identifying risk control measures and setting up action planning and its implementation.

Reporting is the first important stage in workplace accident investigation. It should be made as detail as possible and complete. Some accidents may be adequate to be reported internally and others are required to be reported not only to the related section in internal of the company but have to be reported to local government or Department of Labor in your country.

Each company should refer to the applicable government regulations on how to report the industrial or workplace accident. This includes time of reporting and applicable reporting media.

Gathering Information
The second stage of workplace accident investigation is to collect as many information as we can about the accident and related events.

Workers who were involved in the accident or injured and the supervisors are the main source of information. The gathering information involves interviews.

In addition to interviews, taking photos and drawings of the accident scene can also be done to collect information. During this stage, we should always remember to five W and one H. They belong to what, who, where, when, why and how.

Here are some examples of questions in order to gather information about the accident:
• What was happened?
• When the accident happened?
• Who was involved in the accident?
• Who were the supervisors?
• Where did the accident happen?
• What did workers doing before the accident and when the accident happened?
• What tools, machine, equipment were being used when the accident happened?
• Did the workers follow standard operating procedure?
• Have the workers received related training to the operation?
• Were there any injured workers?
• How did the workers get injured?
• Did the workers wear suitable personal protective equipments?
• Did the injured workers get the first aid measures at site?
• Were there any other persons who saw the accident?
• How did the accident happen (sequence of events)?

The sequence of events is the most important question for anyone who performs industrial accident investigation. Workplace accident in most cases is caused by something that went wrong in the past rather than caused by immediate cause.

Analyzing the Information
Having collected information related to the accident, the information then has to be analyzed by the investigators. In this stage, the investigators will start analyzing the sequence of events in order to clearly understand why the accident happened. Finally, the investigators have to determine the root causes of the accident.

A common method for analyzing the sequence of events that is usually used by many accident investigators is tree diagram. The accident is put at the top of the tree diagram and the contributing factors are on the branches. The root cause of the accident lies at the root of the tree. So that’s why it is extremely important to know the root cause to prevent accident recurrence.

Identifying Risk Control Measures
Once the root causes of the accident have been identified, then we should provide control measures or preventive actions to cut off the root and prevent the accident from recurrence.

The best control measure is eliminating the risk at all. If eliminating the risk is not possible, try to reduce the risk. If the risk still exists, then we have to minimize risk exposure to the workers. Principally, follow the risk or hazard control hierarchy when determining the best control measures.

Setting up Action Planning and Its Implementation
A plan is prepared and scheduled for the implementation once control measures are determined. This is the final stage of industrial accident investigation procedures.

If the five stages of industrial accident investigation procedures is implemented properly then the employers could improve the workplace safety. But, remember that the best accident prevention is how to prevent the accident from happening. Accident investigation requires ‘much’ cost even workers’ life.

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