Workplace Incident Investigations

What is the purpose of an incident investigation? Other than to further interrupt the running of your workplace, in reality, undertaking an incident investigation is an important part of establishing a safe working environment – to prevent any further incidents from occurring.

Incident investigations are primarily undertaken to establish the causal factors of the event. The quicker this investigation commences, the less risk there is for evidence being contaminated and for witnesses’ descriptions being corrupted by time. 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 these important causal factors.

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

Incident investigations are a methodical examination of the incident site, the physical evidence of what happened, the people who have firsthand 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, witnesses interviewed and evidence collected, there will need to have research into any 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 – to provide an outcome for preventative measures in regard to the incident.

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.

Providing a safe workplace and complying with all regulatory requirements, like that of Incident Investigations, are all contributing factors to your Certificate IV in Occupational Health and Safety.