Accidents are investigated for a variety of reasons however the main purpose of any investigation should be to establish the root cause of the accident/ incident / dangerous occurrence in question and thereafter to identify and implement corrective actions / control measures to prevent reoccurrence.
In addition investigations can be undertaken for the following purposes:
- Statutory Obligation - to complete the Health & Safety Authority’s accident report form on-line (Report an Accident on-line button on main HSA webpage - IR1) or the Authority’s Dangerous Incident Form (IR 3)
- For statistical purposes to enable the employer to:
- Review policy
- Update risk assessment / controls
- Update Safety Statement
- Defence - to provide information for insurers in the event of a claim ensuing
An Accident is defined as an unplanned event resulting in personal injury or property damage. This could include, but is not limited to a sprain, laceration, broken bone, concussion, unconsciousness, ill-health or immediate sickness due to exposure to dangerous substances, fumes or gases, fire, explosion, chemical spill where there is a risk of environmental pollution, building or property damage.
An Incident, commonly referred to as a “near miss” is defined as an incident where there was no injury or property damage but where the potential for serious consequences existed.
A Dangerous occurrence is defined as an incident that results in—
- the collapse, overturning, failure, explosion, bursting, electrical short circuit discharge or overload, or malfunction of any work equipment,
- the collapse or partial collapse of any building or structure under construction or in use as a place of work,
- the uncontrolled or accidental release, the escape or the ignition of any substance,
- a fire involving any substance, or
- any unintentional ignition or explosion of explosives.
What Should Be Investigated?
Ideally all reported incidents, accidents and dangerous occurrences should be investigated. The level of investigation required will depend on the incident and the possible severity of its outcome. At a minimum an investigation should be initiated for all accidents / incidents involving lost time or hospital treatment injuries or where it is believed an insurance claim may be made.
It is also very valuable to review / investigate first aid and “near miss” incidents as such incidents could have the potential to have been more serious. If it is possible to learn from, and prevent the reoccurrence, of these types of incidents it may be possible to prevent the more serious lost time injuries from occurring.
When To Investigate?
The speed at which an accident is investigated is of vital importance if full and comprehensive information is to be recorded pertaining to the event. This is especially true for the purposes of interviewing the injured person/s or any witnesses and inspecting the incident location before the situation changes.
The organisation should have a documented procedure in place for the initial reporting of incidents / accidents and thereafter for the investigation of same. Early reporting is paramount and thus employees should be required to report all incidents / accidents, including near miss incidents as soon as possible and prior to the completion of their shift.
Upon completion of immediate actions by the organisation, i.e. the provision of first aid, etc, the investigation process should commence as soon as possible thereafter.
Who Should Complete The Investigation?
The organisation should have a documented investigation procedure in place. This should include a list of persons within the organisation who have received adequate training in Accident Investigation. These people should form the investigation team.
The investigation should be undertaken by a team and should consist of, where appropriate, the safety officer / safety co-ordinator, the person involved in the incident (if available) or a person working in the area of the incident, their immediate supervisor, the safety representatives, relevant technical expertise (engineer / maintenance personnel), and additional persons as necessary.
How To Investigate?
The investigation should aim to establish the root cause of the accident and thereafter identify corrective actions to prevent re-occurrence.
The investigation should establish the facts of the event and should obtain answers to;
- Who? – Who was involved in the accident / incident?
- What? – What was being undertaken at the time?
- Where? – Where, precisely did the event take place?
- When? – When did it take place?
- Why? – Why did it happen?
- How? How can it be prevented from happening again?
To establish these facts the investigation team should:
- Visit and take control of the vicinity of the accident / incident taking note of the general environment of the scene, e.g. lighting, floors, housekeeping arrangements, etc;
- Take photographs and/or sketch diagrams of the accident/incident scene and investigate the system of work which was in place prior to the incident occurring;
- Take details of the particular plant/machinery involved in the accident/incident;
- Take details of the injured person/s and thereafter obtain necessary information pertaining to their training, age, experience and position;
- Note the level of supervision at the time of the accident/incident;
- Record details of the nature of the work – whether it was routine, sporadic or incidental;
- Obtain and review the safe work procedure for the activity that was being undertaken at the time;
- Note compliance with the safe work procedure for the activity that was being undertaken at the time;
- Record details relating to witnesses – including their statements which should include:
- where witness was at the time of the accident/incident occurring;
- the time of the incident as he/she recalls it;
- relevant information to support any of the physical evidence;
- any factual evidence to establish the circumstances of the accident or the workplace before or after the incident;
- the date and time of the statement;
- the signatures of both the witnesses and the investigator.
- Establish the timing and the sequence of events.
The need for any immediate steps necessary to prevent recurrence should be the main aim of the initial accident/incident investigation and systems should be updated as soon as possible with this in mind.
To aid the Investigation process the following should be readily available:
- Copies of standard accident investigation form to hand - The use of an Accident / Incident investigation form is most beneficial for the recording of necessary information,
- Measuring tape,
Investigation Follow-Up And Sign Off:
A written report, detailing the findings of the investigation, the recommended corrective actions – remedial and long term, the timeframe for the implementation of such corrective actions and the persons responsible should be produced and signed off on completion.
All documentation relevant to the investigation should be maintained on file. All notes, report forms and statements should be dated and signed.
The Companies’ insurers should be fully informed, and provided with necessary documentation.
Ibec can provide training to ensure that any accident that may occur in your workplace is properly investigated. See our training course details here.
- Sample Accident Near Miss Form.pdf - 157 Kbytes
Friday, 3 February 2017