Topic area 7: Accident and incident investigation

Estimated Duration: 1 Hour


  • To define the reasons for undertaking accident and incident investigations;
  • To outline the process for effectively investigating accidents and incidents in order to be able to facilitate an effective accident/incident investigation.

Lecture Plan

Need to investigate and learn from accidents and incidents -

1. The primary purpose of accident investigation is to improve health and safety performance by

  • thoroughly exploring the reasons for the accident and identifying both the immediate and underlying causes (active and latent failures).
  • Brief recap of accident causation, particularly concept of active and latent failures.
  • Key elements of accident reporting and investigation systems:

2. Dealing with immediate risks - when accident and incidents occur there may be a need to treat the injured, make the area safe or initiate an emergency plan.

3. Selecting the level of investigation and Team - Not all accidents/incidents need to be investigated to the same extent.

4. Investigating the Accident- Thorough investigations are necessary to ensure that all lessons are learnt and that the correct actions (hierarchy of risk control) are taken to prevent a re-occurrence

5. Collecting and Analysing evidence - observing the scene, examining documentation relevant to the circumstances; and interviewing those involved and those who witnessed the event

6. Recording and follow up - Ensuring that the actions taken are effective and that accident information is analysed to identify common features and trends.

Suggested Reading & Other Resources

  • HSE - Successful Health & Safety Management HS(G)65, HSE Books, 1995
  • Ferry T - Modern Accident Investigation and Analysis, John Wiley & Sons, Canada, 1988
  • Shillito D - Incident Investigation in Environmental Performance Improvement - The Jigsaw
  • Puzzle. Environmental Protection Bulletin, No 25, 1994

Course documents

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Updated 2021-03-26