Incident Investigation, The Importance of Involving Employees

27 February 2017

Incident Investigation, The Importance of Involving Employees

Incident Investigation is not only a legislative requirement; it is also an integral part of an effective health and safety management system and to have an effective health and safety management systems, the involvement of employees is essential.

Incident investigation uses project management skills to drive a continuous improvement of the health and safety systems. The fundamental reason for recording and investigating accidents is to learn from what went wrong in the past, in order to update systems to ensure there is no repeat of that event in the future. When an incident occurs, it suggests that the existing control measures may have been inadequate and require review. If controls are found to be adequate an incident may indicate that employees are bending rules or taking shortcuts. The investigation needs to identify the reason for these procedural violations and workarounds. 

There are many different definitions of an accident or an incident. Listed below are the most common examples you will find.

An event that results in injury or ill health.

A near miss or an event that, while not causing harm, has the potential to cause injury or ill health.

'Undesired Circumstance'
A set of conditions or circumstances that have the potential to cause injury or ill health.

Rationale behind Incident Investigation
Pre-emptive and reactive monitoring are both integral elements of an effective health and safety management system. Investigating an incident after the fact is an example of reactive monitoring, where control measures and procedures are reviewed, prompted by a failure in the management system. It is the ambulance at the bottom of the cliff.

Pre-emptive monitoring is more important than reactive monitoring and involves employees at all levels of a business. Near miss reporting and investigation provides an opportunity to update and improve procedures and control measures before any loss occurs. 

By involving those affected, the employees are more likely to take ownership and ensure that they exercise their own health and safety duty of care.

High incident and accident rates can be directly attributed to a poor performing health and safety management system (amongst other things). The data from the investigation of these incidents and accidents can be used to allocate sufficient resources to the correct areas in order to prevent those accidents happening again.
It must be noted, however, that the reverse is not necessarily true: Low incident rates or the absence of accidents may not be a true representation of the effectiveness of an organisations health and safety management system. Incidents may simply not be reported.
Once incident investigations have been completed, the data gathered can be communicated to workers in order to identify the most appropriate control measures to implement. More often than not, specific control measures may work in theory, but in practice may be impractical and may also create further hazards. 

Click below for legislative requirements for Incident Investigation

Meaning of notifiable incident

Meaning of a notifiable injury or illness