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Investigate health and safety incidents correctly to keep the DoL on your side

by , 16 June 2014
As with any incident, evidence is key. It'll help you identify why the incident happened and how you can prevent incidents in the future.

Because of this you must deal with your evidence correctly. Something which didn't happen with the inspection of the Tongaat Mall collapse...

How the evidence of the Tongaat Mall collapse was mishandled

After the Tongaat Mall collapsed in November 2013, the Department of Labour started an inquiry into the accident. Inspectors had to take samples of concrete support pillars as evidence for the investigation
Now it's come to light that the approved laboratory only tested samples from 16 of the 29 pillars. A different laboratory tested the remaining 13 samples. This raises huge concerns about the evidence in the investigations because even though the inspectors collected all the evidence, they didn't follow procedure. 
This debacle has highlighted just how important it is for you to follow the correct investigation procedure. If there's an incident at your workplace, you need to ensure you follow the correct procedure.
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You must start your investigation procedure with a proper data collection plan 

The Health and Safety Advisor says you need to start an investigation as soon as there's a workplace accident. This ensures none of the evidence is lost and everything will be in your accident report. 
The first step of your investigation procedure is planning. You need to plan how you're going to collect your data. Proper planning will help you ensure you have everything you need in your incident report. 

Use these four data sources in the next step of your investigation process

Once you've planned how you're going to collect data, you need to put that plan into action. When you collect data in the next step of the incident investigation process, you must look at:
1. People: Speak to witnesses and people who were involved in the incident;
2. Physical: Collect evidence from part of equipment and take samples such as blood or chemicals;
3. Location: Look at where people and the physical evidence were; and
4. Records: Look at you records of previous incidences to see if there are any repeat accidents.
The last step of your investigation procedure is to send samples off for testing if DoL requires you to. Ensure you send them to the right lab.
Follow the correct procedure during an incident investigation and handle the evidence correctly so you don't end up paying a DoL fine.
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