Understanding the factors that lead to workplace injuries or illnesses is imperative to preventing them in the future.
Conducting an incident investigation is the most effective tool to accomplish this and is often a regulatory requirement. Before we introduce the topic of "incident investigation," it is important to distinguish the difference between the terms accident investigation and incident investigation. The word accident implies a sudden, unexpected or unexplained event. However, it is exceedingly rare in the practice of safety that injuries occur without certain preexisting conditions that could have been mitigated.
Using the term incident can help alter your perspective on the contributing factors leading to injuries and illnesses at work. In making this distinction, you will learn that most employee injuries are not random events, and that the causes leading up to these injuries are discoverable and controllable. The sooner an incident investigation is conducted, the more accurate the information will be.
- Identify a lead investigator to ensure that all steps are completed. The lead investigator helps oversee the entire process and ensures that workers, supervisors and management are involved.
- Complete incident reports. Have the injured worker, the supervisor and any witnesses complete and sign the appropriate incident report within 24 hours of the incident.
- Interview the injured employee. A face-to-face interview with the injured employee can help uncover essential details to determine what caused the incident. Ask questions about HOW the injury happened, WHERE it happened, WHO was there or involved, WHEN it happened and WHAT time of day. If possible without re-injury, have the injured employee re-enact the incident.
- Interview witnesses individually. Find out specifically what they saw and/or heard. Note: If there are significant discrepancies between the injured employee’s statement and that of witnesses or supervisors, consider the possibility the claim might be fraudulent and immediately notify Zenith of your suspicions.
- Examine the equipment and/or environment. If the injury was caused by a machine or property defect, make notes and take photos if possible. Do not throw away the defective equipment until discussing the incident with Zenith. In some instances, Zenith may be able to recover costs from a third party such as the manufacturer of the defective equipment.
- Call an employee meeting to discuss the incident. Ask for ideas on what caused the incident and how a similar incident can be prevented.
- Identify the cause(s) of the incident. For example: after investigating, a company determines an injured employee slipped on oil on the floor. The oil was traced back to a leaking forklift. The leaking forklift had gone unnoticed because forklift operators were not performing daily inspections. Therefore, one “root cause” is identified as management’s “failure to enforce procedures.”
- Notify employees of the incident investigation results. Tell them what steps are being taken to prevent a similar incident in the future.
Note: The Incident Investigation form should not be used to report a claim to Zenith. You can report a claim online or call us at 1-800-440-5020.