Conducting an accident investigation has always been in the safety manager’s realm of expertise. But, what if you expanded your program to include employees?
Investigations don’t have to be limited to just safety or even management. Valuable insight can come from creating an accident investigation team and a process for what gets investigated, who is involved, and how to do it..
WHAT IS AN ACCIDENT INVESTIGATION TEAM
This is a group of employees at the company who come together to investigate incidents and determine the root cause and contributing causes. It may include safety, members of management, and employees.
The team also comes up with recommendations for corrective actions. And the final decision of what disciplinary action to take is up to management. But having their input is extremely helpful.
WHY HAVE SO MANY PEOPLE INVOLVED IN AN ACCIDENT INVESTIGATION?
More eyes on a problem reduce the risk that something might miss. Everyone comes to the table with different experiences, expertise, and motivations. That safety would look at the situation differently than an operations manager because safety may have horror stories of what could happen. And operations see different solutions at work in other facilities.
Besides, each person may have background information related to the incident.
One time, in an investigation review meeting, the safety manager and i were sure of the root cause. That was until the chief operating officer spoke up about the customer, previous complaints, and their insistence of us delivering products a certain way. It changed the entire investigation.
The more information you can gather, the better. Because the more contributing causes you can identify and eliminate, the fewer incidents in the future.
WHAT TO INVESTIGATE
It is necessary to look into every accident. This would be anything that caused injury to a person or damage to property.
Also, we must investigate near misses. This is where it gets tricky. What do you call a near miss, and what do you call an unsafe condition? And do you investigate both?
So it would be best if you created criteria for what gets investigated. For example, if the injury only needed one band-aid, you don’t investigate.
As your program gets closer and closer to zero incidents, you will expand your investigation criteria. And to start, you may choose to investigate the near misses that were a close-call or incidents with no injury/damage.
But further along, you add in investigating reported unsafe conditions.
WHO INVESTIGATES WHAT?
The next question is, “does your accident investigation team investigate everything?” And that answer is up to you.
I have seen the safety manager and executive take the lead on severe accidents. And the team handles everything else.
I have also seen it where the team is involved in every single one.
Whatever you choose, decide on this detail before you create your team. You need to know what the team will be involved in to determine the level of training they will need.
CREATING YOUR ACCIDENT INVESTIGATION TEAM
Members of your team can be employees, management only, or a combination of the two. So choose what would work best for your operation. Having employees involved, though, helps you build a safety culture.
The members you choose should have experience in the operations. They must be knowledgeable about the business and how to do the work. It is a good idea to include representation from all areas in the company to cover the intricate practices. Each location adds a different perspective.
Include people with many years with the organization as well as newer employees. Once again, to have different perspectives.
When an incident happens, the team goes to work. So the members must be available during most business hours. If you run multiple shifts, you may choose to have multiple teams. However, one group can make it work.
The team should agree to meet regularly to review the status of open corrective actions because this is a best practice to keep them in the loop of the effectiveness of their efforts. They can also do trend analysis and update investigation procedures.
TRAINING YOUR ACCIDENT INVESTIGATION TEAM
The team has to receive the necessary training before beginning any investigations. Accident investigations are a practice. And they take time to learn how to do them thoroughly. So don’t make this training quick.
The training must be in-depth and include several examples, case studies, and tabletop investigations. Tabletops are where people role-play the injured and witnesses and conduct an investigation right in the classroom.
You will get the best results with a role-playing training technique.
For more tips on creating
When you find that your number of incidents to investigate is dropping, you need to add refresher training to the mix. You don’t want your team’s skills to diminish because they need to be ready to act when an incident happens.
Refresher training can achieve quarterly or every 6 months using the case study or role-playing technique.
WHAT THE PROCESS MAY LOOK LIKE
Here is the flow of what the process of using an accident investigation team may look like.
You see how you can have separate investigations. But the results are combined in the end?
When you have your trained team in place, your next step is ensuring the management team understands your process. And it does not need to be YOU informing the investigation team.
There is a danger that something may miss when there are several connections between an incident and an investigation.
Also, there may already be an accident investigation team member in the area. But they shouldn’t have to hold off on telling them until you let them know. They can hear it directly from the front-line supervisor or manager.
Start thinking about adding employees
Make yourself an action plan.
When you add this to your process, not only will it make your results better, it also allows for
Now It’s Your Turn
I believe accident investigation teams are a great way to get employee involvement and improve the safety culture. But now I want to know what you think. Comment below and share your thoughts.
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Hi, I'm Brye (rhymes with sky)! I am a self-proclaimed safety geek with two decades of general industry safety experience. Specializing in bringing safety programs to a world-class level and building a safety culture, I have trained and coached many safety managers, just like you, on how to effectively manage workplace safety in the real world. I would love to help you too.