Why investigate workplace incidents?

What can we achieve from conducting an incident investigation?An incident has happened at work. Perhaps someone has been injured. What is the basic first step that needs to be taken? Where do we start? A Certificate IV in Occupational Health and Safety will give you the skills to conduct incident investigations.

The initial and fundamental step to commence the process of incident investigation and reporting is the notification to management that an incident has happened. The person best placed to initiate this action is the person who was involved in the incident, and it should be to their immediate superior. The workplace should have a system in place for notification and recording of all incidents and injuries that have happened at the workplace.

After the incident has been notified and recorded, there should also be an automatic system in place to enable notification to the appropriate personnel responsible for investigating these occurrences, including elected-worker health and safety representatives (if any).

What can we achieve from conducting an incident investigation? We can’t stop the person from being injured. We can’t stop the equipment involved in the incident from malfunctioning. We can’t stop the plant, building or equipment from being damaged or rendered unserviceable.

We have already lost enough productivity as a result of the incident, firstly from the equipment being out of service, then waiting for the ambulance to arrive, and now trying to replace the injured person; and the rest of the operators seem to be working slower than usual. We have orders to fill and deadlines to meet. If we conduct an investigation as well, we will have a huge loss of productivity; people away from their usual job being interviewed, consequently, other workers relying on their work are at a standstill. To investigate is reactive. We need to be proactive;

Interesting and compelling reasons for not conducting an investigation – loss of productivity!

Agreed, we cannot stop the person being injured, we cannot stop the equipment or plant being damaged, and we cannot stop the loss of productivity that has occurred. We can, however, establish the causal factors of the incident from which the hazard or hazards can be identified. We can then identify the risks associated with the hazards, and develop preventive strategies to reduce the risk of these or similar incidents from happening, at this or similar workplaces again.

A Certificate IV in OHS will teach what is involved in an incident investigation, what equipment is needed, where to start, what evidence to look for, what research is required, how to analyse your results, and what to do with the report when you have completed it.