The unfortunate reality of industries, especially the construction industry, is that employees are always at risk of certain hazards. This includes falling, exposure to toxic material, noise hazards, dangerous machinery, and more.
Employers have long implemented various safety and health protocols in worksites. Additionally, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, under the US Department of Labor, actively works to set out guidelines to prevent such fatal incidents.
But no matter how well precautionary practices protect workers against life-threatening situations, tragic events that take lives still occur, while also causing damage to valuable assets. Such unfortunate events should, however, be indicators to employers that they need to improve the execution of their safety protocols. Through thorough investigation of an incident, employers can derive the cause, and take appropriate action to prevent it from occurring again.
Incident investigation is a critical step. One that has been defined by OSHA in its guidelines for worksite owners.
The Term “Incident” Defined
Previously, the term “accident” was used to describe an unexpected event. But because nearly all of these accidents are preventable, OSHA suggests using the term “incident” instead. It includes workplace fatalities, injuries, illness, and “near miss” events.
How Incident Investigation Should Be Carried Out
During a mishap, it is easy to shift blames. Managers could be too harsh on their subordinates, which can lead to a decrease in morale – something employers should actively avoid. Construction work is more about teamwork than individual performance. Without a properly coordinating team, there will be inefficiencies.
So, instead of looking for someone to blame, the investigation must focus on finding the cause. It is a great way to show commitment to safety and a healthy workplace.
It is a workplace requirement to have a supervisor on the premises whose job, among other things, is to identify hazards and recommend appropriate safety measures.
The said supervisor will also conduct post-incident investigations. But OSHA recommends that the investigation include managers and employees, due to the potential case points that may pop up from different knowledge, understandings, and perspectives. In some cases, the investigation will involve the police and fire departments. It will be the employer’s obligation to assist the legal authorities in every way.
It is easy to jump to conclusions and declare carelessness as the cause of an incident. The proper way should be to look beyond to discover the causes of the incident. Otherwise, steps taken will not be fully effective against preventing future incidents.
The bitter reality is that, at times, production pressures put employees in stressful conditions, and thus, jeopardize their safety. Such revelations may come to pass during the investigation.
Identify the Cause with Evidence
Investigators can start by digging into the CCTV cameras installed on the premises, especially where the incident occurred. It should be your first source when searching for clues to identify the cause. As we discussed, the goal should be to identify the cause, not the failure of following procedures.
Next, interview employees that were involved in the incident, along with any witnesses. It will be tough asking questions from someone who may just have had a physical injury. So, be empathetic while investigating the incident.
Reporting the Incident
Facts must back the identified causes. The only way to get to the bottom of the incident is by a thorough investigation that involves physically searching the area for clues, observing the entire process from start to finish, and speaking to experts who know the process better.
Organize the findings in a report that will serve as a follow-up to the incident. The management can review the report, discuss the findings, and decide what corrective steps should be taken to enhance safety measures in the workplace.
If concluded that the incident occurred due to a lapse in following OSHA’s worksite guidelines, it will be the employer’s duty to fix any lapses.
Incidents are unfortunate events that can not only do damage to the worksite but also cause deaths. OSHA puts great emphasis on the employer’s duty to prevent such incidents in their best capacity. Training programs, such as the OHSAS 18001 Certified Auditor, can train an employee to serve as the investigating officer. Similarly, employee training will ensure that each employee is skilled in working in hazardous situations.