Why Investigate and Analyse Accidents?
Incident investigation and analysis of your accident and near-miss data is crucial to helping your business improve safety performance, and prevent reoccurrence of incidents. Many businesses collect the data to use as a key performance indicator (KPI) for bonus structures but fail to look at trends and see where there are weaknesses in their health and safety management system.
Hopefully, you already have developed a no blame culture for incident reporting in your organisation, so that employees are actively reporting incidents and near misses. It should be actively encouraged that all incident and near misses be reported, no matter how insignificant they seem, so that we can better look to prevent potentially life changing accidents from occurring. For more serious incidents and near misses where the outcome could be severe, incident investigation should be utilised.
It is often not immediately clear what is the root cause of an accident or near miss. It is easy to blame the individual, but on further investigation, there may be other factors such as lack of training, inadequate procedures, faulty equipment or lack of supervision. A simple way of establishing root cause analysis of an incident, is to use the 5 whys:
- What proof do I have that this cause exists? (Is it concrete? Is it measurable?)
- What proof do I have that this cause could lead to the stated effect? (Am I merely asserting causation?)
- What proof do I have that this cause actually contributed to the problem I'm looking at? (Even given that it exists and could lead to this problem, how do I know it wasn't actually something else?)
- Is anything else needed, along with this cause, for the stated effect to occur? (Is it self-sufficient? Is something needed to help it along?)
- Can anything else, besides this cause, lead to the stated effect? (Are there alternative explanations that fit better? What other risks are there?)
Once the cause of the incident is established, improvements to the management system can be made, in an attempt to prevent reoccurrence. Preventing reoccurrence ensures no prosecutions, no civil claims, no lost time injuries, no recruiting and training of new staff, and less staff turnover as workers feel more valued and safe in the workplace.
It is also important to analyse all reported incident data to look for trends. These trends will help to show where there are particular issues within your management system, and to review your risk assessment. If you are getting a lot of hand injuries you may wish to review your training records and training content, review your procedures, and perhaps run a hand safety campaign to raise awareness of these injuries. Whilst the injuries themselves may be minor, they could easily lead to major life-changing injuries or even death. Heinrich's accident triangle tells us that for every fatality, there will be many unsafe acts. Unsafe acts sit on the bottom, widest base of the triangle. As we move up the triangle we will get near misses, major injuries, lost time injuries, and at the top, a fatality. By reducing the number of unsafe acts and near misses, we are reducing the chance of having a serious injury or fatality.
Make sure your health and safety management system has suitable procedures for accident reporting, investigation and analysis. Ensure your company is reviewing it's management system periodically and following all major incidents. By continually reviewing your accident information and your management system you will improve the safety performance of your business. This will save your business time and money, and create a happy, safe and healthy workforce.
If you need help with accident and near-miss analysis, or any part of your health and safety management system, contact us to find out how we can help you: firstname.lastname@example.org or 01843 6399711.