Accident Investigation: Is it Worth Your Time?

By Jim Wirth posted 04-13-2021 01:43 PM

If you have never had a reason to ponder that question, the simple answer is yes. The time and effort used to properly conduct an accident investigation can be invaluable when using the information that is gathered to defend the best interest of your organization. Remember,  you only need to experience one workplace accident or safety-related incident to permanently change the life of an employee.

Information gathered during an accident investigation can be used for multiple purposes; determining the validity of workers’ compensation claims; preventing similar incidents from occurring in the future; responding to legal action; and/or determining compliance with safety regulations.

Who Should Be Responsible?

As is the case in many districts, one individual can wear many hats. However, when delegating the responsibility of investigating an accident or safety-related incident to another associate, it is essential that you keep the following in mind:
  • Does this person know the work process and/or procedures?
  • Do they have experience, or have they received proper training in investigative techniques?
  • Are they authorized to take remedial action?
  • Are they familiar with the staff and current work conditions?

If you find you are answering “No” to one or more of these questions, then the associate you may have originally planned to conduct the accident investigation may not have the skills necessary to gather the best information.

Who possesses the most knowledge and has the skill necessary to perform this action?  Depending on the size of your district, you might consider creating an Incident Investigation Team. This would be a group of staff members representing each area of the school or district. In some cases, you may also consider using the services of a private investigator to provide you an unbiased report.

Basic Instigation Steps
There is one simple rule when conducting a thorough investigation – DOCUMENT. All information surrounding the incident should be recorded such as what first aid/medical care was provided; who reported the incident and when was it reported; what was the cause(s); were there any witnesses that will provide a written statement; were corrective actions taken, and, if so, were they effective.

When investigating the circumstances surrounding a workplace accident it is important to remember that there is seldom a single cause. Common causes include distractions, unsafe work procedures, non-use or inconsistent use of safety devices, rushing to complete a task or most importantly, were they properly trained.

Each of these reasons should be considered and addressed if it is determined they could have initiated the accident or played a key part in the cause of the accident. The best education you provide your staff and team members is preventative training. Plan now and be prepared for what may happen later. Speaking of training, the Ohio BWC Division of Safety & Hygiene has excellent training on incident/accident investigation available.

For additional information please contact me at 614.546.7331 or