Every year accidents occur in the workplace which can have major implications for both workers and the employer. Accidents can be described as events which cause injury or ill health.
According to the Health and Safety Executive in 2019/20, 111 workers were killed at work and around 750,000 workers sustained a non-fatal injury, resulting in 38.8 million lost work days and a cost to the UK of £5.6 bn. Slips, trips, or falls on the same level, handling, lifting or carrying, and being struck by a moving object were the three most common types of workplace accident.
It is important to investigate accidents to comply with the law. Investigations also help an employer understand why and how things went wrong so they can be prevented from happening again.
There can be many reasons why workplace accidents occur, including insufficient or lack of appropriate training, unmanageable workloads, inappropriate or lack of required equipment, lack of communication, high levels of stress amongst workers, unclear policies around safety, and unsafe behaviours.
Workplace accidents are likely to have many causes. What may appear to be bad luck (being in the wrong place at the wrong time) can, on investigation, reveal a string of failures and errors leading to the injury.
Investigations can reduce costs associated with accidents such as legal claims, loss of revenue caused by business disruption, rehabilitation of injured people and recruitment of temporary or new staff. Active investigations can also boost employee morale as they feel safe and valued by their employer.
How to carry out a Workplace Accident Investigation
An effective investigation requires a methodical, structured approach to information gathering and analysis. This can be broken down into the following steps:
1. Information gathering
It is important this happens as soon possible so that the facts of what happened are discovered as early as possible. Investigations can take many forms, including interviews or surveys of workers to find out what happened.
Look at the facts gathered to determine what happened and why. Guidance from The Health and Safety Executive says a simple way of doing this is to ask ‘Why’ over and over, until the answer is no longer meaningful. From here, conclusions can be made to identify underlying and root causes.
3. Control Measures
Identify which control measures failed or were not in place but would have prevented the accident occurring if they had been. From here, employers can identify what control measures are needed to prevent recurrence. Using the hierarchy of controls as a guide can support deciding which control measure(s) will be most effective i.e., those which eliminate risk, combat the risk at source or which rely on human behaviour (such as providing personal protective equipment). Multi-site employers should also consider if control measures need implementing where the same or similar risks exist elsewhere.
4. Action plan
Create an action plan to identify which control measures will be implemented and when, control measures which offer the highest level of protection should be implemented as a priority. Control measures which are not a priority should be allocated a deadline and monitored until closure, it is easy to forget actions which are further down a list.
All risk assessments and procedures must be reviewed to make sure they are truly suitable and sufficient, identify all risks and control measures, including new measures identified in point 4. Employers should keep records of investigations and use them to contribute to reviewing their overall health and safety performance.
If you need any assistance with accident investigation or risk assessments we are here to help!