On incident and accident investigation in HSE (Health Safety and Environment), recent reports have shown that on average, a total of 250 employees or workers are killed annually because of accidents in the workplace. It goes further. Studies have also revealed that about 150,000 sustain major injuries at their workplace. In addition, it has been reported that over 2.3 million cases of ill health are work-related.
According to the Labor Force Survey, over 40 million working days are lost through work-related injuries and ill health, at a cost to businesses at £2.5 billion. These statistics revealed why it is important to study and understand why incidents or accidents happen at the workplace and how to carry out incident and accident investigations in HSE.
Investigating incidents and accidents in the workplace in compliance with HSE rules and policy will help organizations find out what went wrong.This article on incident and accident investigation in HSE provides insight on what you need to know about incidents and accidents in a workplace environment. It includes what is accident investigation in HSE, the key terms used in incident investigation, the difference between incident and accident, why we investigate an incident and the benefits of incident and accident investigation in HSE is.
What is Accident Investigation in HSE?
Accident investigation in safety is the analysis conducted to determine the root cause of an accidental occurrence to prevent further similar events. It involves gathering information systematically on the factors that contributed to the accident to write an accident investigation report.
What is Incident Investigation in HSE?
Incident investigation is the examination of an unusual or undesirable event. It is the account and analysis of an incident or occurrence based on the information gathered by examining all factors and causes that contributed to it
Through incident investigation, lessons can be learnt to avoid further occurrences.
What is the difference between Accidents and Incidents in HSE?
An accident in HSE is an event or an occurrence that happened unintentionally because of an injury, damage, or harm. An incident in HSE is an event or circumstance that occurred unintentionally but may not be due to damage, injury or harm.
Hence, an accident can be termed an incident.
Key Terms Used in Incident Investigation
Below are some of the keywords often used in accident and incident investigation
Adverse Event: An adverse event in HSE investigation may imply:
- Accident: Accident is any event that leads to injury or ill health.
- Near miss:Near means is an event that has didn’t cause harm but has the potential or ability to cause harm
- Undesired circumstance: These are circumstances with the potential of causing injury or ill health. An example is an untrained nurse handling heavy patients.
In HSE investigation, the immediate cause is the most obvious reason an adverse event happened. e.g.,Example is a guard who is missing.
A circumstance is said to be hazardous when it has the potential to cause harm. The harm may include ill-health injury and damage to property, plants, products, or the environment.
Dangerous occurrence is one of several report-able adverse events, as defined in the Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations 1995 (RIDDOR)
This is the accident outcome as described in an accident investigation report.
- Minor injury:An injury is classified as minor injury when the injured person is unfit to carry out his regular work for less than three days.
- Fatal:Fatal is used to describe an almost deadly outcome.
- Severe injury/ill health:A person is said to suffer from a severe injury when he or she is unfit to carry out his or her duty for more than three successive days.
- Major injury/ill health:According to RIDDOR, Schedule 1, a consequence can be described as a significant injury in an accident investigation report when it includes fractures (aside from those involving the fingers and toes). Major injury is also an injury that results in unconsciousness. This may further require that the affected person is resuscitated or admitted in a hospital for more than a day.
- Damage only:This implies damage to property, equipment, the environment, or production losses.
Words used to describe the likelihood that an adverse event (accident or incident) will happen again:
- Certain:This means it will happen again and soon.
- Likely:This means it will reoccur, but not as an everyday event.
- Possible: This means it may occur from time to time.
- Unlikely: This means that the incident is not expected to happen again anytime soon
- Rare: This means the incident is unlikely. It is not expected to happen again.
The level of risk of an incident is determined from the addition of the likelihood of a particularlybad or undesirable event occurring and the severity of the consequences. This implieshow often is it likely to happen, how many people could be affected and how bad would the possibleinjuries or ill health effects be?
Risk control measures:
Risk control measures are the workplace precautions setto reduce the risk of an accident to a tolerable level.
The less obvious or hidden reason for an adverse event happening, for example, when the pre-start-up machinery checks are not conducted by supervisors. This reason is almost unknown during the accident investigation but should be reported in the accident investigation report.
Types of injury
In HSE accident investigation, major injuries are those that cause persistent or lasting harm. Their effect leads to loss of energy and strength. They may include:
- Head trauma
- Broken bones, including chipped and fractured bones
- Blunt or penetrating trauma
- Full dislocation of joint
- Resulting injuries from falls from height
These are injuries that only require first aid attention. Examples include
- Skin or eye irritation resulting from contact with a substance.
- Persistent cough
- Sprains and strains, or ligament damage
- Whiplash-type injuries
- Partial dislocations of joints such as shoulder, knee, or elbow.
Near misses in the incident investigation are incidents where no injury/harm has occurred. Even though near misses are generally not reportable under local legislation, it is still important to record them.
- Tripping over a trailing cable
- Falling down a step
- Unattended ladder slipping down a wall due to lack of securing
- Falling over uneven ground.
In accident investigation, dangerous occurrences under UK legislation include:
- A collapse or partial collapse of a scaffold over five meters tall
- An overturn of any load-bearing part of lifting equipment
- Contact with overhead power lines
- Fire or explosion that closes a premise for more than 24 hours
- Accidental release of a flammable substance of specific quantities.
Why do we Investigate an Accident or Incident?
What is the purpose of Incident Investigation? The main reason for investigating accidents and incidents is to identify the causes of such accidents at workplace to to prevent future recurrence.
An accident or incident which is reportable within a country’s legal framework should be reported. Relevant information surrounding the accidents should be reported also to the regulatory authority.
In addition, it is also important to report an accident to the organization’s insurance company so that the injured or affected person can be compensated.
- An incident is investigated to ensure a company or organization complies with the laws of health and safety of the country.
- Every company is expected to comply with the management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999, regulation 5, to plan, organize, control, monitor and review their health and safety rules. Health and safety investigations form an essential part of this process.
- For injured parties considering legal action, a full disclosure of the incident circumstance is needed.
The fear of litigation often makes people think it is better not to investigate an accident;however, things can only get better when we know where they go wrong in the first place.
Investigating an accident in HSE thoroughly and taking remedial actions, when necessary, helps to prevent further accidents. This also shows the court that a company has a positive attitude towards the health and safety of its employees.
Information and insights gained from an investigation
- HSE accident investigation procedure helps to get an understanding of how and why things went wrong.
- Incident investigation analysis helps us understand the ways people can be exposed to substances or conditions that may affect their health.
- Incident investigation in HSE also shows a true snapshot of what really happens and the work process.(Workers may find shortcuts to make their work easier or quicker and may ignore rules. You need to be aware of this.)
- The incident analysis also helps in identifying risk control management, which will enable you to improve your management of risk in the future and to learn lessons that are applicable to other parts of your organization.
Benefits of Investigating an Incident or Accident at work
- The prevention of further similar adverse events.
- Investigating an accident at the workplace helps to prevent further loss that may be experienced in the future.
- Accident investigation also helps to prevent work or business disruption that may arise due to civil legal action from an accident.
- Accident investigation also leads to an improvement in workers or employees’ attitudes towards health and safety. With the investigation of every incident at work, workers become conscious of each other’s safety.
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- How To Investigate an Accident
- HSG 245 Investigating Accidents and Incidents: A Workbook for Employers, Unions, Safety Representatives and Safety Professionals
L 146 Consulting Workers on Health and safety. Safety Representatives and Safety Committees Regulations 1997 (as amended) and health and Safety (Consultation with Employees) Regulations 1996 (as amended). Approved Code of Practice and Guidance.