Incident Investigation and Reporting: Evidence and Exhibits

Certificate IV in Occupational Health and SafetyAn effective incident investigation involves the understanding of evidence and exhibits. So what is the difference between evidence and exhibits? Raymond Kuhlman in his publication, Professional Incident Investigation, categorises evidence into four in descending order of fragility as:              

  • People
  • Positions
  • Parts and
  • Papers

Exhibits are physical evidence which can be used in a Court of Law.

People provide eye or ear evidence relating to events prior to, during, and after the incident. This information is recorded as witness statements as described above.

Positions are the physical location of people and parts prior to, at the time, and after the incident. The position of parts after the incident can be extremely fragile, particularly if they are removed or repositioned during recovery of an injured person, or incidentally due to the site not being adequately secured. To ascertain the position of people and parts prior to, and at the time of an incident will normally depend on the affirmation of witnesses.

Parts are visible, tangible, material pieces of plant, tools, equipment, buildings at or around the incident scene that may or may not have had some influence prior to, during or after the incident. The examination and inspection of parts that are suspected of having caused an incident through distortion or failure may be undertaken by a person who is appropriately qualified to examine the part, or has the sophisticated equipment, required to undertake the comprehensive testing. Any reports or advice provided will form part of the evidence in the investigation, and the person who provides the advice or information is usually known as an “Expert Witness.”

Papers are the most stable, durable part of evidence. They take numerous forms and consist of written records such as: job standards, job procedures, operating instructions, maintenance manuals, maintenance records, induction record sheets, training records, personnel qualifications, competency certificates, contracts, and quotes.

You can learn more about evidence and exhibits during an incident investigation by obtaining a Certificate IV in OHS and studying the unit – Participate in the Investigation of Incidents.