Investigating Health and Safety Incidents

Investigating incidents is crucial if you want to identify the root causes of an incident and determine what steps should be taken to prevent similar occurrences. To ensure the accuracy and completeness of an investigation, it’s essential to follow a systematic and structured approach.

Investigating incidents involves four stages: gathering information, analysing the information, identifying suitable risk control measures, and developing an action plan for implementation. Each stage plays a crucial role in the investigation and provides valuable insights that can help prevent future incidents.

Stage 1: Gather Information

The first stage of the investigation involves gathering information to establish what happened and how it happened. The response of the investigation team should be prompt and efficient. It’s advisable to have an investigation kit prepared and ready to use, containing essential items such as a camera, pens, paper, measuring tape, hazard warning tape, PPE, site plans, and an investigation checklist.

Information can be gathered from various sources, such as the scene of the incident, people involved or affected, and relevant documentation. The scene of the incident is time-sensitive, and investigators should examine it first. Physical evidence, including sketches, measurements, photographs, and details of the environmental conditions at the time, can be crucial in establishing what happened.

People involved or affected can provide verbal and written statements regarding eyewitness observations, experiences, and opinions. Witness interviews should be conducted soon after the incident, in a private, comfortable room with no interruptions. Relevant documentation, such as risk assessments, permits-to-work, work procedures, training records, and previous incident reports, can also provide valuable information.

Stage 2: Analyse Information

The second stage of the investigation involves analysing the information gathered in the first stage to understand what happened and why. This analysis should be systematic to ensure that all possible causes and consequences are fully considered. Understanding the underlying and root causes of an incident can help identify the most effective risk control measures.

Stage 3: Identify Controls

The third stage involves identifying suitable risk control measures based on the analysis. Failings and risk control measures that were not in place or failed should be identified. Suitable risk control measures that could have prevented the accident can be proposed. These solutions need to be systematically evaluated to ensure that the best options are considered for implementation. If several risk control measures are necessary, they should be prioritised in the action plan.

Stage 4: Action Plan

Finally, the fourth stage involves developing an action plan for implementation. At this stage, senior management, with the authority to make decisions and act on the investigation team’s recommendations, should be involved. The action plan should have SMART objectives (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Reasonable, and Time-bound) to implement additional risk control measures. It is essential to monitor the effectiveness of the action plan and revise it if necessary.