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How to Investigate an Accident in HSE

Accident investigation and reporting is an important aspect of HSE (Health, Environment and Safety). Preparing to handle accidents through carrying out workplace incident investigation procedures shows that organizations comply with HSE policy at the workplace and are concerned about the health and safety of their employees.Organizations should have safety officers who are trained staffs who can carry out workplace incident investigation procedures and write accident investigations and reporting.So, you would ask, how do you investigate an accident in HSE?

This article answers your question of “how do you investigate an accident”. It is a step-by-step guide to investigating an accident for organizations, especially small businesses, to help them conduct their own health and safety investigation in compliance with HSE policy. Following this step-by-step guide on how to Investigate an accident will help you on how to how an accident or incident report.

Step-by-Step Guide / HSE Accident Investigation Procedure:

Step 1: Prompt / Immediate Response:

The first step in investigating an accident or incident is to respond immediately as fast as possible. An emergence notification should be sent to the supervisor in charge as soon as an accident or injury happens. Prompt emergency action such as first aid should be administered as soon as possible.

For the incident or accident investigation report, the scene should be preserved. Also, the equipment involved, names of the people or person involved, and the names of the witness should be reported. In investigating an accident in HSE, it is also important to report the incident to the person responsible for health and safety who will decide what further action (if any) is needed.

Step 2: The Incident/ Accident Investigation Reporting (Gathering the Information)

The step of accident or incident reporting in HSE includes asking a series of questions. These set out in detail the information that should be entered into the incident investigation report.

An on-site thorough investigation on the accident should begin almost immediately by an investigation team for an accurate incident investigation report. This is important so that the accident investigation is not corruptede.g.; items moved, guards replaced etc. If necessary, work must stop, and unauthorized access be prevented.

During an accident investigation in HSE, people who are present when the adverse event happened should be interrogated.

Also, all relevant and available information, including observations, opinions, photographs, and a detailed work routine and condition, should be collected. All information should be for the accident investigation report,so it is not tampered with.

Incident Reporting Template

An accident investigation report sample or template contains the following details

  1. Date, time, and location of incident
  2. Names, job titles and department of employees involved
  1. Names and accounts of witnesses
  2. Events leading up to incident or accident
  3. Damage to equipment, materials, etc.
  4. Specific injuries (including part(s) of body injured, nature and extent of injuries
  5. Type of treatment for injuries
  6. Environmental conditions that resulted into accident in workplace (e.g., slippery floor, inadequate lighting, noise, etc.)
  7. Circumstances (including tasks, equipment, tools, materials, PPE, etc.)

Workplace Incident Investigation Procedure- Incident Reporting Examples:

An accident or incident template contains the following question format.

  1. Where and when did the incident happen?
  2. Who was injured/suffered ill health or was otherwise involved with accident?

Incident reporting in details in HSE will help safety officers identify hazards and risk in a workplace, thus making the workplace a safer zone for all employees.

  1. How did the incident happen?

This part of the step-by-step guide in accident investigation describes the chain of events that led to the accident or incident. This can be recounted by an eyewitness. Also, the equipment involved in the accident is also noted.

  • The position of the injured should be noted immediately and after the details
  • The plant and equipment that had a direct bearing on the accident must be identified clearly. This information can usually be obtained from a nameplate attached to the equipment. All details of the equipment involved including the manufacturer, model type, model number, machine number and year of manufacture and any modifications made to the equipment.
  • The supplier or manufacturer of the machine involved in the accident can be contacted if such equipment has been implicated several times.
  1. What is the activity being carried out or done at the time of the incident?

During accident/ incident investigation and reporting, the work done when the incident happened can help reveal the work being done just before the incident happened. This also helped to know what went wrong.

The accident/incident investigation report should include the surroundings, the equipment/materials being used, the number of employees engaged in the various activities, the way they were positioned and any details about the way they were behaving etc.

  1. Was there anything unusual or different about the working conditions?

The fifth step on how to investigate an accident in HSE Accidents often happen when something is different. When faced with a new situation, employees may find it difficult to adapt, particularly if the sources of danger are unknown to them, or if they have not been adequately prepared to deal with the new situation. If working conditions or processes were significantly different to normal, why was this? Describe what was new or different in the situation. Was there a safe working method in place for this situation, were operatives aware of it, and was it being followed? If not, why not? Learning how people deal with unfamiliar situations will enable similar situations to be better handled in the future. Was the way the changes, temporary or otherwise, were introduced a factor? Were the workers and supervisors aware that things were different? Were workers and supervisors sufficiently trained/experienced to recognize and adapt to changing circumstances?

  1. What injuries or ill health effects, if any, were caused?

Among the many accident investigation questions,this question helps to answer what part of the body was involved in the injury, and the nature of injury. There are different types of injury in incident and accident reporting.

Was there an injury? If yes, how did it happened and what cursed it?

Another important question that comes up when trying to know how to investigate an accident in HSE is the question of if an injury occurred, how it happened and the cause of the accident.

  • The object responsible for the injury is known as the “agent”.
  • The way the injury was sustained. If the object is a hand-held tool such as a knife or a harmful chemical. This helps to know the way the accident occurred, perhaps the employee cut or spill the chemical on his/her skin.
  1. Was the risk known? If so, why wasn’t it controlled? If not, why not?

Yet another step in accident investigation in HSE is asking to know if the risk was known beforehand. This question brings clarity to if the risk or possibility of the incident was communicated to the employees.

If the risk was communicated, it further helps to know if the communicated risk was understood and the person who communicated the risk.

This workplace investigation procedure helps to understand any potential gaps in the communication process and how it can be corrected for future sake. In addition, it helps to find out if the risk was ignored, not appreciated as it should be or not well understood.

All of these should be noted in the incident report form. Moreover, it is important to know that the process and system is being investigated and not the person.

  1. Did the organization and arrangement of the work cause or influence the accident/ incident?

The framework in which work is done by employees is most times set and influenced by the organization. The following examples explain more:

  • High daily production targets set by the organization may lead to employees discarding safety measures to meet up with the daily target.
  • Less than adequate standard of supervision and onsite monitoring of work processes and practices.
  • Employees’ actions and priorities may also result from the way they are paid or rewarded.
  1. Were the people involved competent and suitable?

Training should provide workers with the necessary knowledge, skills, and hands-on work experience to carry out their work efficiently and safely. The fact that someone has been doing the same job for a long time does not necessarily mean that they have the necessary skills or experience to do it safely. This is particularly the case when the normal routine is changed, when any lack of understanding can become apparent.There is no substitute for adequate health and safety training.

It is important to take all workers through training in designated work description. Health and safety representatives should also be made to go through accident investigation training too.

All these questions and many more should be asked in compliance with HSE accident investigation procedure.

Step 3: Analysis:

Analyzing an accident / incident investigation in HSE involves finding out the cause of the accident. This helps to develop an effective method of action to eradicate future occurrence. The cause of an accident at work may be classified as:

  • Primary causes e.g. A fall off a ladder
  • Secondary causes: e.g. The ladder is not well tied
  • Other factors such as: The ladder wasn’t stable because it is old.

Step 4: Action Plan and Its Implementation

This may include short and long-term control measures or corrective actions such as:

  • Training all workers on safe work practices
  • Inspecting job processes and recommending changes where necessary
  • Ensuring all equipment are in good working conditions
  • Conducting job hazard analysis from time to time to identify any hazards.
  • Training employees on hazard

What you have learnt so far

Learning how to investigate an accident in HSE at your workplace is very important.  Accident investigation and reporting helps to outline every of the steps and processes which the accident occurred. By so doing, you can find the areas that needs to be addressed to prevent further reoccurrence.

Do you need a certified safety officer to investigate an incident in your company? Perhaps, you want to train your staffs on Health Safety and environment policy at the workplace? Our team at Max-Migold is an expert in training individuals and cooperate organizations in a series of HSE courses. We also specialize in other professional courses in facilities management. We ensure your team of employees are safe in their building. This in turn, helps them put in their very best for great work output. Contact us today.


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