Path to Safety - Step Two
Unfortunately, we all know that accidents happen in the workplace. Step Two in your Path to Safety is ensuring that effective accident investigations are conducted, the root cause of the accident is identified and steps are taken to correct the identified root cause.
Accidents occur when hazards escape detection during the worksite analysis, when hazards are not obvious, or as the result of combinations of circumstances that were difficult to foresee. A thorough accident investigation may identify previously overlooked physical, environmental, administrative, or process hazards, the need for new or more extensive safety training, or unsafe work practices.
All accidents or near misses should be investigated. The depth and complexity of the investigation will vary with the circumstances and seriousness of the accident or near miss. It is management’s responsibility to ensure that the investigation is completed and recommendations from the investigation are implemented.
When an accident occurs, the first priority is to deal with the emergency and ensure that any injury or illness receive prompt first aid or medical attention and that any dangerous environmental factors are corrected or cordoned off so additional injuries do not occur. The accident investigation should begin immediately thereafter. How to conduct the investigation? Ask who, what, when, how, and why. Talk with the injured employee and witnesses. Check the accident site and reconstruct the events that resulted in the accident, considering all possible causes. Take pictures of the scene. Be thorough. Small details may point to the real cause. Determine unsafe conditions or actions that separately or in combination were contributing factors.
Ultimately, the root cause, or the origin or essential core of why the accident occurred, must be identified in order to effectively prevent future accidents. Literature has identified seven factors that are the root cause of most industrial accidents. These include: inadequate training, poor enforcement of rules and regulations, failure to inspect, no written job specifications, questionable purchasing methods, design problems, and questionable employee selection. Do you notice that all of the root causes are areas that fall under management’s responsibilities? Management must determine what actions are essential to control or eliminate the root cause of the accident and ensure that those actions are implemented. Secondary causes of accidents also must be addressed. A toolbox talk entitled “Attitudes and Behaviors That Cause Accidents” is available at www.asa.net.
This second step on the path to an effective safety program can positively impact your productivity, the health and well-being of your employees, and a better bottom line.
This article was written in conjunction with participants in the OSHA and ASA Alliance. It does not necessarily reflect the official views of OSHA or the U.S. Department of Labor.