Investigation of Incidents: A Summary

Certificate IV in Occupational Health and SafetyIncident investigations are undertaken to establish causal factors of the event, and the quicker the investigations commences, the less risk there is of evidence being contaminated and witnesses descriptions being corrupted. A variety of investigators may be involved in the investigation of a particular event, and whilst they may be looking at the event from different perspectives, they all need to establish the causal factors.

Investigations need to be pre-planned. The investigator should have all of the tools and equipment that they may require accessible at short notice, and be prepared to commence an investigation immediately. When advised of the circumstances of an incident they should be considering possible scenarios and tactics, so when they reach the investigation site they have some concept of what avenue they will be following.

The investigation is a methodical examination of the incident site, the physical evidence of what happened, the people who have first-hand knowledge of facts related directly or indirectly to the event, and any records, papers etc. that may contribute to the outcomes of the investigation.

After this examination has been undertaken and photographs taken, sketches made, witnesses interviewed and exhibits collected, there will need to be research into: other similar incidents, existing work practices and procedures, and other relevant matters. This research will be necessary to establish the deeper causal factors. When all of the needed information is available, the investigator will be able to analyse the event to establish causal factors, for which they will develop preventative strategies to reduce the risk of a recurrence of the circumstances surrounding the event.

At the conclusion of these steps, it will be necessary for the investigator to commit their investigation details and conclusions of the event in the form of a written report with conclusions reached and recommendations for preventative strategies. This report should be submitted to the management of the workplace where the incident happened, the health and safety committee at the workplace, and, depending on who undertakes the investigation and for what purpose, the party or parties who commissioned the investigator’s investigation.

Depending on the status of the incident investigator, they may or may not have any part in the implementation of their recommendations. The implementation and follow up of recommendations will normally be the role of the management of the enterprise together with the health and safety committee and elected worker health and safety representatives of the workplace.