Accidents At Work
If an employee is hurt on the job, it is important to get to the root of exactly what caused the problem.
Not only is it essential that management uncovers how the employee got injured, it is also crucial that they try to prevent these injuries from happening again. This is where having adequate accident investigation training comes into play.
What Happens After An Accident?
If an employee is injured during the course of their work, the first step is to make sure they get the medical attention they need. Another critical step is for the employee to make sure they report the accident and injury to the appropriate company personnel.
Once reported, the employer can begin searching for the root cause of the accident. This doesn’t mean pointing the finger or trying to find someone to blame. Rather it is about getting to the core of the matter and making the necessary improvements for creating a safer work environment in the future.
After an on-the-job accident, an investigation team which can include people like team leaders, employee peers, outside experts, union reps and legal counsel will begin the fact-finding process.
Key questions should include:
- What happened?
- Where and when did it happen?
- Who was there at the time?
- What was going on?
- Why did it happen?
Investigations should begin as soon as possible after an accident or incident. Ideally, they should begin when the work area is deemed safe.
Common Investigation Steps
Each individual investigation is unique and should be specific to the accident. This is why it is important to ensure certain company employees have been trained in what steps they should carry out following an accident. Common process points include:
- Making an investigative plan
- Choosing a team to investigate (and assigning tasks to each team member)
- Getting an investigation kit (including camera equipment, audio recorders, measuring devices, gloves, a first aid kit, report forms, etc.)
- Reviewing the accident site
- Documenting evidence (site photos, sketches of the area, notes)
- Interviewing the victim(s) and witnesses
- Assessing why the accident happened, by looking beyond the obvious
- Writing and sharing a report
- Recommending future safety improvements
The process is a necessary step for helping the injured worker, other employees and employers.
For the injured worker, the details that emerge from the investigation can help clarify details for a potential Workers’ Compensation claim. For other employees, it can create a safer workplace. Finally, this investigation can help the company by reducing the chances of further safety problems.
What’s Noted At The Scene?
For the investigation period, it is important that trained individuals are on hand to make sure relevant workspaces are blocked off or otherwise secured. This will help prevent intentional or unintentional changes to the scene.
During the fact-finding process, the team will often document issues like:
- The location of equipment and tools
- Operation logs
- General condition of the work area (quality of floors, machinery, working surfaces, etc.)
- Air quality
- Cleanliness of the area
- Posted signs (such as hazard warnings)
Even details that might seem insignificant can later prove important toWorkers’ Compensation cases and safety reports.
If other people witnessed the accident, these people should be interviewed as possible, so that important details can be documented and recounted clearly.
Best practices for these witness interviews can include:
- Conducting the interview in a quiet, private place
- Keeping the atmosphere informal
- Asking open-ended questions, rather than leading the conversation
- Listening without blame
- Asking some questions for which answers are known (this can help corroborate facts or point out possible deception)
- Consulting an outside expert to help with the interviews, if necessary
The Report and The Next Steps
After the team finishes their investigation, a report detailing what happened and why, and who was involved should be generated.
A thorough report should include future safety recommendations and assign who’s responsible for making sure the improvements are made.
The Link To Workers’ Compensation
Employees can get injured in many different ways in the workplace (see the most common accidents here) and it is important that these accidents are investigated in the right way. A Workers’ Compensation lawyer can help you understand how an accident investigation (and the final report) can play into your Workers’ Compensation claim.
Disclaimer: For informational purposes only. This is not a substitute for legal advice. If you need legal advice please contact us.