The Importance of Conducting Proper Incident Investigation by HSE Practitioners in UAE

In 2012, a survey was conducted by The Statistics Center – Abu Dhabi and the result represented the number of death cases. This figure was 165.

The number occurred as a result of injuries or diseases across several industries; the construction sector constituted the largest percentage with 47%

This was closely followed by the industrial sector.

In addition to those regional statistics, the World Health Organization, WHO, estimated in 2014 that between 20 – 50% of workers worldwide are exposed daily to differing hazards whilst at work. This margin increasing even more in the developing world as well as newly industrialized countries.

These incidences could be reduced to the barest minimum or even be prevented by proper investigation by competent professionals such as Health, Safety and Environment practitioners who subsequently make recommendations on how to avert these workplace occurrences.

Conducting a proper incident investigation is one of the proven panaceas to this potentially devastating trend and the continuing purpose of the incident investigation is to ensure that incidents are investigated according to the injury, or injury potential, of an event – in accordance with company policy and OH&S legislation.

The term incident has been defined by OSHAD “as an event or chain of events which has caused or could have caused fatality, injury, illness and or damage (loss) to assets, the environment, entity reputation or third parties.”

Why Investigate Incidents?

OSHAD-SF (Mechanism 11) requires all entities to investigate all work-related incidents, including near-misses and dangerous occurrences.

The potential consequences and the likelihood of an adverse event recurring should be the determinant for the level of investigation, not necessarily the injury or ill health suffered on the actual occasion. However, workplace incident is rarely attributed to a single cause as hazards are prevalent in all workplaces. The causes can range from unsafe work environments, issues with the assigned jobs or tools, supervisory or workers training and competence can also play a part.

Conducting a proper incident investigation is one of the proven tools for mitigating against the effects of these incidents.

The primary objective of incident investigation is prevention. As such, finding the causes of an accident as well as putting controls to prevent or eliminate these potential causes can assist in preventing any future occurrences. All responsible factors must be examined to determine the role each had to play in causing the incident/accident as it is a legal requirement not only to report certain incidents but also putting the steps put in place to prevent recurrence.

 The emphasis placed on investigating incidents can also provide a useful barometer and a general overview of the management’s commitment to safety in the workplace. It also well assists in controlling further losses of human and material resources by identifying and correcting unsafe acts and conditions that lead to an incident in the first place. Preventing further injuries and illnesses, saving lives, saving money, demonstrating commitment to health and safety and promoting positive workplace morale amongst many other benefits.

Proper Investigation

 An effective investigation in a “snap shot” means fact finding, and not fault finding.

The process of proper investigation is a valuable tool in accident prevention and the scope must include:

  1. Data gathering and proper analysis of the available information.
  2. Putting in place corrective action
  3. Monitoring the action for effectiveness.

All incidents regardless of size or impact need to be investigated.

This process helps HSE practitioners and employers look beyond what happened to discover why it happened. Allowing employers to identify and correct shortcomings in their health and safety management programs.

To give an analogy; let’s look at an incident in which a firefighter cut his hand when breaking the windows during a house fire. The breaking of the window at the house fire is the incident, the situation in which the accident occurred. The injury that resulted from contacting an object that the body is not able to withstand is the actual accident. A proper incident investigation into the root cause of this incident could reveal that the fire fighter may not have worn the personal protective equipment (PPE) required of firefighters, further investigation would also reveal where he was injured, let say his hand. Questions like ″how did he protect his hands? Did the firefighter wear his gloves? If so, in what condition were his gloves? Did he undergo the necessary training required to carry out his duties safely” and many more will be asked.

In conclusion, the findings of incident investigation form the basis of an action plan in preventing accident or incident from happening again and for improving the overall health and safety management system of a workplace. The importance of conducting an incident investigation by HSE practitioners in the UAE can never be overemphasized as a problem known is a problem half solved.

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