When an employee gets injured in a workplace incident, a policyholder’s top priority is getting them the care they need. Acting quickly is the best way to manage claim costs. Many employers think their job is done after the claim closes. But how do you prevent similar injuries from happening in the future? The cause of the injury may not be as straightforward as it seems. To discover the true cause of the injury and build a safer workplace, you need to conduct an incident investigation.
Missouri Employers Mutual Safety and Risk Specialist Rhonda Kauffman joined us on this episode of the WorkSAFE podcast to discuss.
Listen to this interview on the WorkSAFE Podcast, or read the show notes below.
What is an incident investigation?
Big or small, workplace incidents can happen in any industry. Many employers think a workplace injury and a claim are the same. But Kauffman said close calls are considered incidents. They are also worth investigating. “An incident investigation is actually looking at an event that occurred that is considered undesirable that may have happened in the workplace,” she said. “Many times, nothing may have happened. Nobody may have gotten hurt, property may not have even been damaged.”
Avoiding an injury or property damage isn’t about luck. There may be a deeper problem that needs to be fixed. Unless you take time to understand why an incident happened, there is always a chance it could happen again.
Why should I investigate an incident?
The purpose of an incident investigation is to find the root cause. When you find the cause of the incident, then you can prevent it from happening again. Often an investigation reveals behavior that needs to be improved. According to Kauffman, an investigation can reveal that you need one or more of the following:
Employees need training
Do you remember your first day on a new job? Were you given safety training or orientation? If you were, did you remember those safety rules? It can be tough for workers to remember safety rules if you don’t talk about them often. New hires present even more of a risk in the workplace. If employees aren’t sure of safety rules, then an incident can happen.
You need new equipment
Using old or worn equipment on the job presents a risk. New equipment often has safety features added to it. These safety measures are designed to keep employees safe. Even if employees are trained to use old equipment, it still presents a hazard.
You need corrective action
When you have safety rules in place, employees should follow them. An employee who ignores these rules puts not only themselves but others at risk! Rules are there to keep workers safe. You may need consequences to reinforce this.
4 steps to conduct your own incident investigation
If an incident happens in your workplace and an employee is injured, your first task is to get them medical care. Even if the injury seems small, don’t waste any time. Some injuries can become worse the longer they go untreated.
After the injured employee receives medical care, make sure to report the claim. Do this as soon as you can. You should have an incident reporting policy that outlines your expectations for employees. Then, start your investigation. An Incident Investigation Report can help you keep track of your findings. Follow these steps to get started.
1. Secure the area
Secure the area where the incident took place with tape or cones. Direct employees away from the area. Were any machines or equipment damaged? Are there hazards in the walkway? Use your smartphone or a camera to take pictures of what you see.
2. Get witness statements
Kauffman reminds employers that timely reporting and investigation are important. You want to talk to employees while memories are fresh. Have anyone present during the incident fill out an Incident Witness Statement.
3. Analyze your findings
What did you find in your investigation? What changes could you make to help keep employees safe? Was an employee at fault, and is corrective action needed? Remember, your goal is to keep the incident from happening again.
4. Identify specific actions
Identify the specific actions you need to take to make your workplace safer. Assign those responsibilities to supervisors or employees to make sure they get done. If employees need training on safety rules, set aside time to do that.
Best practices for preventing an incident
Hold regular safety meetings
A good workplace has safety rules in place. A great workplace reviews these rules often. Having regular safety meetings can refresh employees on how to work safer. Choose a regular time and place for these meetings. If you have a lot of field employees, try to let them know about safety meetings well ahead of time. Choose a topic to share. Employees can sign workplace safety rules at these meetings to show they know and understand them.
Inspect equipment often
Inspect your equipment and machines often. Employees who drive vehicles or trucks should carry out a pre-trip vehicle inspection. Old or outdated equipment that has a history of causing problems should be replaced.
Have a plan in place
Kauffman stressed that having a plan in place before an incident is important. Gather any forms or information you might need. This includes the phone number and location of your designated medical provider. Keep this information where employees can find it if a supervisor is unavailable.
Depending on the size of your business, the incident investigator will be different. In a large company, the job could belong to a safety manager. In a smaller company, it may be the business owner or a supervisor. No matter who it is, investigating the incident will keep your employees safe.