Seven Tips to Accident Investigation

Investigating a construction accident doesn’t mean finding someone to blame.  When it comes to safety, it’s important not to confuse the concepts of investigating a workplace incidence and placing blame.  Training construction workers to understand this difference is critical to improving overall safety.

A productive accident investigation focuses on identifying the issues in the process that lead up to the incident.  And, more importantly, identifying the safety procedures that should have come into play to prevent the accident.  Look through the seven steps to a productive approach to accident investigation.

1. Immediately respond
The construction company’s emergency response protocol should come into place.  In some cases, this will mean contacting emergency responders.  After contacts have been made, then the site needs to be secured so the investigation can take place.

2.  Information is gathered
At this point, the investigator gathers as much data about the incident as possible.  Beginning immediately is essential, so that details are not forgotten.  During this stage, the witnesses should be questioned and asked to sign statements about their report.  Any documentation that would aid the investigation should also be collected at this point.

3. Release the scene
It usually is not practical to keep a site closed while the investigation proceeds.  As long as the site is safe for workers to return, it’s important to open the site once all the information has been obtained.

4.  Do an analysis
Organize the all the information in two formats.  One format should list all the data in chronological order. This provides a step-by-step account of what happened.  Then, the data should be organized logically.  This can show how the different aspects relate to each other.  Looking at both sets of data can lead to a probable cause.

5.  A report should be developed
A key component to any safety program is documentation.  A comprehensive report gives everyone the same information which can be referred to for years. If litigation occurs, clear documentation is critical.  Photos and witness statements are important parts to this documentation.

6.  The findings should be shared
A major goal of investigating an accident is to prevent future incidents from happening.  Therefore, sharing the findings and the recommendations is critical.  As construction workers are given training of the shortcomings, it’s less likely those situations will become repeat offenders. Keep in mind that if there is litigation, some aspects of the case may need to remain private until the litigation is finalized.

7.  Make necessary changes
Depending on the analysis and recommendations from the investigation, changes will likely be made so the incident is not repeated.  Provide training so that everyone is on the same page regarding the changes.

Nowhere is it more important to learn from your mistakes than in construction.  When it comes to safety training, accident investigation is an important step.  It is how to use an incident as a teachable moment for construction workers.  Use the seven steps to create a productive construction accident investigation system for your team!