Investigating accidents and incidents
In any business or organisation things don’t always go to plan. You need to prepare to deal with unexpected events in order to reduce their consequences. Workers and managers will be more competent in dealing with the effects of an accident or emergency if you have effective plans in place that are regularly tested.
You should monitor and review any measures you have put in place to help control risk and prevent accidents and incidents from happening. Findings from your investigations can form the basis of action to prevent the accident or incident from happening again and to improve your overall risk management. This will also point to areas of your risk assessments that need to be reviewed.
An effective investigation requires a methodical, structured approach to information gathering, collation and analysis.
Health and safety investigations form an essential part of the monitoring process that you are required to carry out. Incidents, including near misses, can tell you a lot about how things actually are in reality.
- Investigating your accidents and reported cases of occupational ill health will help you uncover and correct any breaches in health and safety legal compliance you may have been unaware of
- The fact that you thoroughly investigated an incident and took remedial action to prevent further occurrences would help demonstrate to a court that your company has a positive attitude to health and safety
- Your investigation findings will also provide essential information for your insurers in the event of a claim
An investigation can help you identify why the existing risk control measures failed and what improvements or additional measures are needed. It can:
- provide a true snapshot of what really happens and how work is really done (workers may find short cuts to make their work easier or quicker and may ignore rules - you need to be aware of this)
- improve the management of risk in the future
- help other parts of your organisation learn
- demonstrate your commitment to effective health and safety and improving employee morale and thinking towards health and safety
Investigating near misses and undesired circumstances, where no one has been harmed, is as useful as, and may be easier than, investigating accidents.
In workplaces where a trade union is recognised, appointed health and safety representatives have the right to:
- investigate potential hazards and dangerous occurrences in the workplace
- examine causes of workplace accidents
All employers, the self-employed and people in control of work premises have duties under the Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations (RIDDOR).
They must report certain work-related injuries, cases of ill health and dangerous occurrences. RIDDOR applies to all work activities but not all incidents are reportable.
Reporting incidents should not stop employers undertaking their own investigation to ensure risks are controlled effectively.
Further information about what must be reported and how to report it can be found on HSE’s RIDDOR site.