OSHA Safety Manuals | Reporting and Investigating an Accident
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investigating accident

Reporting and Investigating an Accident

Reporting And Investigating An Accident

A good accident investigation tries to answer these questions:

  • What happened?
  • When did it happen?
  • Where did it happen?
  • Who was involved?
  • Why did it happen?
  • How can it be prevented from happening again?

When these questions are answered for all accidents and near misses, patterns often emerge and preventable causes are often discovered. But the patterns may not be true unless information acquired during the investigation is complete and accurate. The observations of co-workers, as well as from employees that were directly involved, can be critical. It helps if everyone will:

  • Make mental or written notes about the accident before the investigation starts.
  • Avoid talking to others before talking to the investigator, since this may confuse the facts.
  • Answer all questions about the incident as accurately as possible.
  • Take the investigation seriously–give it your best.

The first thing to do when an accident happens is to make sure the worker’s injuries are treated. The next step is to carefully investigate the events surrounding the accident. The reason for investigations is not to place blame on anyone, but to learn what happened–so similar incidents can be prevented in the future. All employees play an important role in this.

Should all accidents be reported and investigated? Ideally, not only accidents but also near misses should be reported. The study of near misses can help prevent more serious incidents, where someone is actually injured. Such investigations needn’t always be extensive, but records of near misses often indicate trends or hazardous conditions that can be corrected.

Top priority will be given to the most serious events. An accident that results in hospitalization or death must be immediately followed by a thorough investigation, once the injured receive care. Multiple injuries and fatalities are also investigated by OSHA and insurance personnel, so accurate facts must be gathered carefully. Photographs, samples and measurements are often necessary.

The actual investigation is generally carried out by supervisors or personnel who have been trained for this. Nevertheless, all employees play an important role in the accident prevention process and in preventing future mishaps. Once employees understand why it’s important for them to report all accidents and near misses, and to cooperate fully with investigations, management can benefit from their experience and input.

Employees should be constantly alert to potential causes of accidents–before they happen. All unsafe acts or conditions should be reported to a supervisor immediately, whether or not someone has actually been hurt.

PREVENTING ACCIDENTS IS EVERYONE’S RESPONSIBILITY!