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Five important steps you must take when investigating an accident at your workplace

by , 08 April 2015
You can't afford to waste any time when it comes to investigating accidents at work!

You must investigate an accident or near misses straight after it happens. Even minor accidents. So you need to be properly prepared.

Why? Because you'll need to refer back to the report when you do your safety risk assessments!

The point of your investigation is getting to the bottom of what caused the accident. You can't exactly avoid injuries from happening if you don't know what caused them in the first place.

Let's see what steps you need to take when investigating an accident at your workplace...

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Steps in accident investigation at work

1. Determine if the accident's been reported properly

You need to make sure that employees report the accident properly. You must train them on the correct process to follow. In most cases, you only need to report accidents within your company. But if you need to report it to the local authority, you must do this within 7 days of the accident.

The following accidents should be reported to the authorities:
•    Fatalities;
•    Injuries requiring hospitalization;
•    Any person requiring immediate medical treatment as a result of exposure to chemicals; and
•    Major spills, emissions or any other serious environmental impact

2. Secure the accident scene
You must start collecting your information as soon as possible. Just make sure that someone is caring for the victim! It's important to note that two things change after an accident's happened: pieces of evidence and a person's memory.

Read on for your three other steps…
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Three other steps you must take

3. Don't stop the investigation too early
This is where a lot of companies go wrong! Investigators forget that the main cause could also have underlying causes. The immediate cause of someone slipping would be the wet floor. But what caused the floor to get wet? That's where you need to investigate further to find out what the root cause was.

4. Analyse the information
Once you gather all the information, you need to analyse it. Here you piece together the sequence of events. It's an important step to start understanding why the incident happened. And what the underlying cause of the accident was.

Many accident investigators use a 'tree' diagram to show the events that led up to the accident. This method puts the accident at the top of the tree. And the branches that come from the top show the factors that caused it.

Once you identify the root cause of the accident it's easier to put controls in place. This'll reduce the chance of it happening again.

5. Suggest Corrective Actions
Now that you know the cause of the accident. And all your paperwork is up-to-date; it's time to do your risk assessment. Give your findings and suggestions to the safety committee. They'll be able to decide what controls to put in place to lessen the chances of the accident happening again.

You must make sure that you investigate your accidents as a process. Accident investigation isn't something you want to have to go through! Prevention is better than cure. So make sure you do your safety risk assessments regularly using the risk assessment toolkit. And put controls in place to reduce the chance of the accidents happening in the first place.

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