When an incident occurs, having a plan that outlines what to do will help responders provide care for those involved. An incident investigation plan also provides a framework to gather the information needed to help prevent a similar incident in the future.
Several theories can be used to explain why an incident happens, but when someone is injured, none of those necessarily matter. What is important is that something went wrong and there is an immediate need to deal with the circumstance in a compassionate and organized manner.
Incident investigation plans, like other safety plans, should be tailored to meet the needs of the facility. They may include checklists or other pre-printed forms to help anyone responding gather the information that will be needed.
Here are the seven steps you should follow to thoroughly investigate incidents.
1. Deal With Immediate Needs
Taking care of victims’ needs should always be the first priority. Responders should be able to administer first aid or minor medical attention. Isolate the incident scene to provide privacy to the individual and to prevent other hazards from harming the victim or others in the area. If it’s appropriate, take pictures to preserve evidence of the scene, but be aware that in some situations this may be insensitive.
2. Preserve the Scene
Secure the area around the incident by putting up barricade tape or other physical barriers to prevent people from walking into the area. Prohibiting access to the area helps to preserve the scene so that anyone investigating can look at the details of what happened. Anyone who is investigating the incident should be taught not to remove, alter or disturb anything that could provide evidence of how the incident happened.
3. Make Notifications
Inform management, supervisors or anyone else that needs to know about the incident. They may need to be part of the investigation team or they may need to know for a variety of other reasons. They may also need to file reports with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) in the case of severe injuries.
4. Gather Supplies
Investigation preparedness starts long before an incident happens. As teams are trained to investigate incidents, one thing that helps them to be prepared is incident investigation kits that contain the tools and items that may be needed during an investigation. Kits can be customized depending upon unique needs of the facility or the abilities of the responder, but often include items such as:
- Ruler or measuring tape
- Caution tape
- Gloves, goggles and any other necessary PPE
- Pens, pencils
- Pre-printed forms
- Sample containers
5. Collect Information
Consider the use of pre-printed forms to prompt investigators to gather information. There should be space to document the incident and provide a framework for the team to review the facts and revise plans to prevent a similar incident in the future. Some basic things that may be documented are the time and date of the incident, the name of the victim or victims, any witnesses and the names of anyone on the investigation team.
In addition to documenting details on forms, take pictures or make sketches to record the specifics of what has happened. This is also a good time to conduct interviews while the incident is still fresh in everyone’s mind. Have a process to interview witnesses individually to help ensure the integrity of the information.
After the initial investigation, review the information that has been gathered to help further determine the root cause of the incident. Some of the items that can be helpful are equipment operation manuals, process safety documents, training records, previous audits and other similar resources. Plan a course of action to prevent this incident from happening again. For example, develop or update written plans, change process, update procedures or review PPE use.
7. Implement Changes
After the incident investigation committee has determined which recommendations to implement, update plans and procedures to reflect those changes. Employees will then need to be trained on any changes that affect how they perform their jobs so that an incident can be prevented in the future.
Investigating incidents takes time and practice. But when investigations are used to determine root causes and to make changes in plans and procedures that help prevent a future incident, they are a proven way to help ensure that the same incident does not happen again.
Help cut down on the need for incident investigations at your facility by equipping your workers with the best safety supplies. See our recommendations here!