How to Properly Conduct an Accident Investigation

Although most workplaces strive to avoid accidents, injuries, and illness on the job, some incidents are inevitable.  When an accident occurs, an accident investigation is necessary to identify the causes of the accident and find ways to prevent a similar situation from causing harm in the future.

According to the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), most workplace accidents can be prevented with proper training, preparation, and adherence to applicable state and federal safety regulations.  Conducting a proper accident investigation is key to preventing future accidents.

The first step after any accident is to make sure that anyone who is injured receives proper medical care.  Then, investigate the accident by starting with these steps:

  1. Secure the accident scene.
    The scene of the accident provides valuable information and evidence about the accident’s causes and operation.  Secure the scene by cordoning it off from the rest of the work area or by asking an employee to stand guard. 
  1. Gather information.
    Examine the scene to gather as much information as possible about what happened.  Take detailed notes that record the time and place of the accident, what was happening when the accident occurred, who was involved, and how the accident happened.  You may also need to interview people at the scene for more information. 
  1. Identify the causes of the accident.
    Use the information gathered to identify the cause or causes of the accident.  Did a piece of equipment fail?  Were workers not paying adequate attention?  Were “outside” factors like weather involved?  List each of the causes or contributing factors to the accident. 
  1. Consider improvements.
    With a clear view of the causes and contributing factors, you can begin to suggest improvements or changes that might prevent such an accident in the future.  For each recommendation, state clearly how the change will eliminate or reduce one of the causes of the accident.  
  1. Report your findings.
    A written accident report makes it easier to share the results of the investigation with decisionmakers in the company.  Include a summary of the information gathered in the investigation, the list of causes or contributing factors to the accident, the recommended changes or improvements, and a brief explanation of how each change or improvement is expected to prevent similar accidents in the future.

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