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Conduct Assessments Using a Workplace Incident Investigation Checklist

Improve worker safety by addressing the real cause of the problem.

What Is a Workplace Incident Investigation Checklist?

99 minutes — that’s how often a worker dies at their workplace according to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics. In 2019, the numbers tallied to more than 5,000 fatal occupational injuries recording the highest number of workplace accidents since 2007. On top of this, thousands more fell sick from exposure to dangerous substances or stressful workplace conditions.

While the numbers were alarming, the fact that the causes of all these incidents were preventable was even more distressing. That’s why the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) highly encourage employers and safety officials to investigate incidents in the workplace, so they can identify hazards at the worksite, spot potential shortcomings in their current safety programs, and implement preventive measures to make sure that future incidents will be avoided.

Such incidents are costly for both the workers and the company, so no room must be left for mistakes when it comes to safety. This is where a workplace incident investigation checklist is essential, it makes sure that employers have all the details they need to conduct an investigation even when navigating the chaotic and emotional circumstances of an incident.

Through a successful investigation, they can:

  • Avoid injuries and save lives
  • Decrease liability costs
  • Protect worker safety and boost workplace morale
  • Optimize their operations and improve management

A checklist can help them achieve this by walking them through all essential steps and guiding them on which information should be thoroughly documented. Using an incident investigation checklist, they can have the data they need to analyze not just what happened, but why the incident happened. Most importantly, this will help ensure that the company operations follow the highest standard of safety measures in compliance with OSHA regulations.

This article covers the following topics:

1. What workplace accidents causes

2. How to conduct a workplace incident investigation

3. Benefits of Digital Workplace Incident Investigation Checklists

What Causes Workplace Accidents?

There are many different ways an accident can happen in the work site. Typically, the root cause can be caused by one or a combination of these causal factors:

  1. Task-related: The hazard could have resulted from the work the worker was doing. When checking this, questions like the following need to be asked:
    • Were the standard work procedures followed?
    • Were they equipped with the proper tools for the job?
    • Were safety devices functioning properly?
    • Was the worker wearing personal protective equipment and did they use it properly?
  2. Material-related: This can happen if the worker is operating equipment or exposed to stray materials or dangerous substances. Here are some of the things you can check:
    • Were all machine guards working?
    • Is the equipment defective or poorly designed?
    • Were the hazardous substances clearly stored and marked?
  3. Environment-related: When there are changes in the physical work environment, incidents can happen. You can identify them by considering things like:
    • Weather condition
    • Noise levels
    • Presence of toxic fumes, gases, or even dust clouds
    • Excessive clutter in the work site
    • Lighting
  4. Worker-related: This happens when a worker isn’t in the best mental state or unequipped with the right knowledge and training to handle the job. To know your worker’s health and condition, you need to check the following:
    • Level of training and experience
    • Physical capacity
    • Mental, physical, and emotional state at the time of the accident (e.g Were they sick? Did they feel tired? Were they experiencing stress?)
  5. Management-related: This refers to existing safety procedures implemented by the company. To identify any potential shortcomings in your company’s safety and health protocols, you should check:
  • Were the safety protocols properly communicated to the workers?
  • Were the procedures written down?
  • Was the execution properly supervised?
  • Did management provide proper training to workers to safely perform their tasks?
  • Did management conduct equipment maintenance and inspection on a regular basis?

Man doing factory work

How Do You Conduct a Workplace Incident Investigation?

The main goal of an incident investigation is to find out what happened, how it happened, and most importantly, dig into why it happened. To achieve this, you will need to approach the investigation systematically and work toward identifying the root cause using a workplace accident investigation checklist.

OSHA recommends a four-step approach on how to conduct an accident incident investigation.

1. Documentation

Before anything else, you must preserve the scene of the incident. This includes not removing or altering material evidence and setting a perimeter to keep people away from the site.

Then, as you conduct the investigation you must document all necessary information that would be needed during the analysis. This should include details like:

  • The date of the investigation
  • The people conducting and participating in the investigation
  • The name of the injured employee
  • The description of the injury and whether it’s temporary or permanent
  • The date, time, and location of the incident

Visual documentations through videos, pictures, or sketches can also be used as supplements to your observations and reported facts.

2. Collection

There are plenty of ways to collect information about the incident. One of the most common, and often most useful, are interviews.

Interviewing the people involved in the incident, including witnesses, can extract detailed information about what really happened. The questions you will include in your employee accident investigation form will largely depend on the situation and the people involved.

One of the best practices when collecting information through interviews is to conduct them immediately after the incident; right when the workers have already settled down and the workplace has been secured. The urgency of the timing is important because memories can often fade or alter with time. Interviewing the witnesses while the incident is still fresh in their minds can yield more accurate statements.

Apart from interviews, you can also collect useful information through the following:

  • Company records, written safety policies, and implementation records
  • Work logs
  • Equipment records and manuals, and maintenance schedules
  • Training records and documented communications of safety protocols
  • Previous safety audit reports and corrective actions recommended
  • Security footage

3. Identification

It is at this stage that you work towards determining the root cause. Unless you’re able to identify the root of the problem, you won’t be able to come up with effective solutions that can ensure the accident doesn’t happen again.

In analyzing the information gathered, it’s imperative that you look beyond the what and dig deeper to extract the why behind the incident. Keep in mind that the root cause will always be more complex than the obvious factors and it will require that you conduct a deeper analysis of the incident. One way of doing this is to keep asking the question “why”.

For example, instead of simply concluding that the worker was not following proper safety protocols, you can dig deeper and find out the reason why the employee did not or was not able to follow the safety protocols. As you dig deeper, you might find out that the worker was trying to get the job done faster, so he decided to skip safety procedures. From this, you will have to identify the reason why the worker was in a hurry. Was it because the supervisors wanted the job done in less time? Perhaps, the worker was already exhausted?

4. Correction

The final step is the implementation of corrective actions. Although the main goal of a workplace incident investigation is to address the root cause/s, there are cases when the corrective actions are general to workplace safety and applicable across the board.

Some examples of general corrective actions are:

  • Creation or optimization of preventive safety programs
  • Revision of existing safety protocols and policies
  • Establishment of clear lines of accountability and responsibility among management and supervisors
  • Strict implementation of personnel training, machine inspections, and regular risk assessments

Benefits of Digital Workplace Incident Investigation Checklists

A digital checklist is a modern way to improve the information in the workplace accident investigation checklist . Thanks to its structured design, it can be used to record all relevant information immediately after the incident.

The good thing: With Lumiform, the accident report checklist no longer needs to be in paper form. The mobile app can be accessed at any time and from anywhere. This way, the incident investigation checklist is immediately available. Once all the data has been recorded and checked, the app automatically generates a report that can be forwarded to the responsible body.

The use of the app and desktop software in companies offers numerous advantages in everyday work – not only in the case of accidents:

  • Generate real-time data about site visits. This feature makes workplaces more transparent, and data is used to continually optimize deployments.
  • Lumiform’s flexible checklist builder helps you turn every single paper checklist into a digital checklist without much effort. In addition, you can adapt digital templates at any time and immediately receive the latest version.
  • Gain an instant overview of everything that happens on site.
  • Field reports are automatically generated – this saves the complete follow-up.
  • The efficiency of internal communication is improved: Due to faster reporting of incidents, occurring problems are solved up to 4x faster.
  • Easier analysis of all data saves time. Areas that need improvement are identified more quickly.
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