Investigating a worksite incident; whether it be a fatality, injury, illness, or a near miss, provides organisations and workers the opportunity to identify hazards in their operations and shortcomings in their existing management of risk and health and safety.
Most importantly, it enables employers and workers to identify and implement the corrective actions necessary to prevent future incidents from occurring.
Incident investigations that focus on identifying and correcting root causes, not on finding fault or blame, also improve workplace morale and increase productivity, by demonstrating an employer’s commitment to a safe and healthful workplace.
Incident investigations are often conducted by a supervisor, but to be most effective, these investigations should be conducted by an external, impartial third party.
Whilst conducting an accident or incident investigation, the team involved must look beyond the immediate causes of the incident. It is far too easy, simplistic and often misleading, to conclude that human error, carelessness or failure to follow a procedure alone was the cause of an incident or near miss. It is the root cause of the incident that must be identified in order to understand the measures needed to change to prevent future incidents. When an issue is identified, it is important to ask why it existed and why it had not been previously addressed.
Other examples which could have come into play may include; equipment, procedures or training. Addressing underlying or root causes is mandatory to truly understand why an incident occurred, to develop truly effective corrective actions thus minimizing or eliminating serious consequences from similar future incidents.