Incident and accident investigation training is essential to ensure safe workplaces and efficiency of safety systems. The incident and accident investigation, if done correctly, helps to prevent repeats of similar incidents. The South African Occupational Health & Safety Act stipulates the requirements, functions and responsibilities of the investigating officers, also called health representatives.
A proper investigation follows specific protocol and has as goal to identify the series of events that have led to the particular incident. With such an investigation, the representative team is able to identify risk areas and any areas or actions than must be changed to prevent further incidents or accidents. The depth and scope of the investigation is dependent upon the complexity and circumstances of the incident.
The investigating officer or team collects the evidence of the series of events and the actual incident. One or more persons can form part of the investigating team, which can consist of the safety officer, supervisor, safety representative, and employees or persons with the required skills, experience and knowledge about the particular work environment or accident occurrence.
It is imperative to follow a systematic approach throughout the investigation process. The investigation should start immediately, or as soon as possible after the accident or incident. The investigator must review the physical evidence at the scene of the incident before there is a chance of the evidence being destroyed or disturbed. The investigator must be objective and must ensure that nothing is disturbed at the scene. It is important for the person to enquire about possible changes to the scene before their arrival. Recording of the scene must be done through photos, videos or sketches to help accurately reconstruct the order of occurrences.
After the scene investigation, the investigator or team must label and keep all the collected evidence safe. They must interview any witnesses and must ensure that such interviewing is done individually. They also need to assess whether there is a history of near misses relevant to the particular type of incident and must keep meticulous record of all the sources.
The team is expected to document the procedures followed for every step of the investigation, which will serve as evidence of the investigation being objective and fair. All the information is then reviewed, including related information, such as purchasing documents, equipment and policy manuals, training records, and previous records of such incidents. They need to make a reconstruction of the accident, which will help them to verify witness statements and to identify what exactly happened, in addition to what can be done to prevent a recurrence.
From the above information, it becomes clear why incident and accident investigation training is so important to ensure accurate, objective and fair investigations. When it comes to events that led to the particular incident, for instance, the team must review the system of work and suitability of the system for the particular types of functions. They must assess whether the persons involved received correct instructions or training to perform the particular tasks.
Their investigation must include reviewing of the instructions to determine whether there were variations from the normal procedures and the reasons for such variations. They must furthermore identify the exact location and report on such, as well as the list and description of materials and tools present and handled. They also look at factors such as whether or not adequate supervision was provided, and how the work conditions may have affected the ability to perform the duties safely, including lights, stairs, warning alerts, signs, weather conditions on the particular day, and even floor surfaces.
The team must review the facts of the incident, such as the systems used and the conditions of the systems at the time of the accident, all the parties involved, equipment and tools directly used when the incident occurred, and the time at which the accident or incident happened. They also need to assess the extent of property, personal and equipment damage, the assistance provided at the scene and problems related to dealing with the damage, such as a non-functioning fire hose or locked fire escape door.
Design and environmental components must be considered, in addition to human behaviour. We can assist enterprises with a range of incident and accident training courses to help create safer work environments.