Importance of Accident Investigation

Safety means accident prevention.  No where is this more important that in the construction industry.  An accident is an unplanned event due to the failure of people, equipment, supplies or surroundings. Accident investigation can help determine how and why the failure occurred. What is learned from an accident investigation can help prevent future or even worse scenarios.  Training employees how to help with accident investigation will help the overall safety of a construction operation.

Why should accidents be investigated?
Prevention is a key reason to accident investigation, which leads to heightened safety. Investigating accidents should have an emphasis on determining the cause. Finding fault is not as beneficial as finding facts that can lead to actions.  This mentality will help illuminate prevention for the future.

Reasons to investigate a construction accident:

  • Most importantly, determining the cause to prevent similar accidents in the future
  • Fulfill any legal requirements
  • Figure out the cost of an accident
  • Determine compliance with applicable safety regulations
  • Process workers’ compensation claims

Who should investigate the accident?
In an ideal situation, a person experienced in accident causation would investigate the accident.  He or she would benefit from having full knowledge of the work processes, procedures, persons, and environment of a particular situation.  It can be benefical to have the supervisor help with the investigation as well.  However, it’s important that supervisor shortcomings are not overlooked as part of the investigation.

Looking for the main cause.
When an accident occurs, it’s rarely due to a single event or cause. The investigator should equally look at how unsafe conditions and unsafe acts led to the accident.  Notice how a quick conclusion of worker carelessness as the cause of the accident overlooks other questions that include:

  • Did the worker have the proper training? If no, why not?
  • Was there a distraction? If yes, what was the distraction and why did it distract the worker?
  • Were safety procedures being followed?  If no, why not?
  • Were safety devices followed and in working order? If no, why not?

An investigation that asks these questions can allow for a more open inquiry to reveal circumstances that could be corrected.

What steps should be followed during an accident investigation?
The investigation should start as soon as possible so conditions can be observed immediately.  Starting immediately prevents a disturbance to evidence and witnesses. It is helpful to have an accident investigation kit that could include, paper, pencil, camera, and tape measure.

Following these steps can make for an effective accident investigation process:

  • Report the accident to the designated person
  • Provide first aid and medical care to injured person(s) and prevent further injuries or damage
  • Investigate the accident
  • Identify the causes
  • Report the findings
  • Develop a plan for corrective action
  • Implement the plan
  • Evaluate the effectiveness of the corrective action
  • Make changes for continuous improvement

ProActive Safety Services can provide expert consultation and services to help businesses establish or improve their own safety program. And, this can be done by integrating the client’s already existing program.  Through the accident reporting program, training can be provided to help create an effective accident investigation system.

This article has been produced for proActive Safety Services by a third party.