Maximizing Workplace Safety: Key Tips for Conducting Effective Accident Investigations
Every work-related near miss at an organization and those involving injuries, illnesses, and fatalities must be examined. Near misses are incidents that, under different conditions, would have resulted in harm. When it comes to the well-being of workers, nothing is more important than conducting complete and accurate investigations into workplace accidents. Safety professionals and facility administrators must grasp best practices around incident investigations to ensure that facts are uncovered, core concerns are tackled, and remedial measures are directed toward the true problem.
Investigations into incidents that are effective focus on the facts rather than placing blame. It’s not uncommon for investigators to conclude that the employee was to blame for the incident. Rather, supervisors should determine if a breakdown in workplace safety and health management equipment, procedures, or training was to blame. Increasing workplace safety and protection will reduce the likelihood of future occurrences, boost employee morale, boost productivity, generate cost savings through decreasing premiums for workers’ compensation insurance, and raise profitability.
When Something as Innocuous as Handrails Are Involved
Handrails are an essential safety component in many working environments, particularly those with stairwells or elevated pathways. Accidents can still happen despite the presence of handrails, though. Among the most frequent workplace incidents using railings are:
- Accidents such as slipping, tripping, and falling is common even when railings are present. This may occur if obstructions block the walkway or the stair handles are damp or slippery.
- Accidental contact with a railing is possible that employees sustain injuries if they come into contact with a handrail that has become disconnected or dislodged. This may occur if the barrier is broken or not securely fastened.
- Fingers becoming pinched or crushed if caught between metal railings and something else is another common cause of hand injuries in the workplace. This is also common in handicapped ramps found open to the public.
- Workers risk cuts and lacerations if the handrail is in poor condition or has sharp edges.
- Handrails exposed to direct sunlight or other heat sources can become dangerously hot to the touch, posing a risk of burns in some industries. Burn injuries are possible for any worker who comes into contact with a heated railing.
It is essential to ensure that railings are placed correctly, periodically examined for signs of corrosion or wear, and maintained clean and clear of any obstructions to reduce the likelihood of incidents like this occurring. Also, workers should get training on properly utilizing handrails and report any risks they see.
How Workplace Accidents Should be Investigated
Investigations are occasionally carried out exclusively by the supervisor of the person who was hurt or became ill. But, looking into these incidents should be carried out by a team of managers, employees, and a safety specialist. The afflicted worker, and any witnesses, are typically more successful. Both the staffing agency and the host company are responsible for conducting investigations into incidents involving temporary workers.
Senior management, engineering staff, and even legal counsel may be called into play once a tragedy has occurred, and they might be subject to more scrutiny than a minor event.
An investigation of a workplace accident must be conducted by a safety expert. The analysis needs to be complete, impartial, and quick so that the underlying causes of the accident may be determined and measures are taken to prevent further incidences. These are some actions a safety expert should do when looking into a workplace mishap:
- Safety professionals must start by promptly securing the accident area to avoid more injuries or property damage. Workers’ and the investigative team’s safety must be prioritized. Thus activity in the vicinity must be halted, and the site must be cordoned off if necessary.
- The safety expert should gather data on the incident, including witness accounts, images, videos, and any other pertinent information. All of this data has to be recorded in a succinct and understandable style.
- Talking to everyone there when the accident happens, from witnesses to victims to managers, is crucial. These interviews should not be confrontational to get people to speak openly and honestly.
- The safety expert has to assess the information acquired during the inquiry to determine what led to the incident. Instruments like a fishbone diagram or a 5-Why Analysis may be necessary.
- After identifying the accident’s fundamental cause(s), the safety expert must establish corrective steps to prevent future occurrences of the same nature. The relevant parties should be informed of these remedial steps, which should be documented.
- The safety professional is responsible for ensuring that the remedial steps have been performed and are successful by evaluating the situation. The investigative process should be examined to find areas that have improved.
A safety professional’s overarching goal in investigating a workplace accident is to determine what went wrong and how it might be avoided in the future. It is essential to maintain open communication lines and work with all parties engaged in the inquiry to guarantee its success.