Health & Safety Management for QuarriesTopic Seven Accident and Incident Investigation
Objectives of this Section • To define the reasons for investigating accident and incidents. • To outline the process for effectively investigating accidents and incidents. • To facilitate an effective investigation.
Accident Investigation • Important part of any safety management system. Highlights the reasons why accidents occur and how to prevent them. • The primary purpose of accident investigations is to improve health and safety performance by: • Exploring the reasons for the event and identifying both the immediate and underlying causes; • Identifying remedies to improve the health and safety management system by improving risk control, preventing a recurrence and reducing financial losses.
What to Investigate? • All accidents whether major or minor are caused. • Serious accidents have the same root causes as minor accidents as do incidents with a potential for serious loss. It is these root causes that bring about the accident, the severity is often a matter of chance. • Accident studies have shown that there is a consistently greater number of less serious accidents than serious accidents and in the same way a greater number of incidents then accidents.
Many accident ratio studies have been undertaken and the one shown below is based on studies carried out by the Health & Safety Executive.
Accident Studies • In all cases the ‘non injury’ incidents had the potential to become events with more serious consequences. • Such ratios clearly demonstrate that safety effort should be aimed at all accidents including unsafe practices at the bottom of the pyramid, with a resulting improvement in upper tiers. • Peterson (1978) in defining the principles of safety management says that “an unsafe act, an unsafe condition, an accident are symptoms of something wrong within the management’s system.”
Accident Studies • All events represent a degree of failure in control and are potential learning experiences. It therefore follows that all accidents should be investigated to some extent. • This extent should be determined by the loss potential, rather then just the immediate effect.
Stages in an Accident/Incident Investigation The stages in an accident/incident investigation are shown in the following diagram.
Dealing with Immediate Risks • When accidents and incidents occur immediate action may be necessary to: • Make the situation safe and prevent further injury. • Help, treat and if necessary rescue injured persons. • An effective response can only be made if it has been planned for in advance.
Selecting the level of investigation The greatest effort should be put into: • Those involving severe injuries, ill-health or loss. • Those which could have caused much greater harm or damage. These types of accidents and incidents demand more careful investigation and management time. This can usually be achieved by: • Looking more closely at the underlying causes of significant events. • Assigning the responsibility for the investigation of more significant events to more senior managers.
Investigating the Event The purpose of investigations is to establish: • The way things were and how they came to be. • What happened – the sequence of events that led to the outcome. • Why things happened as they did analysing both the immediate and underlying causes. • What needs to be done to avoid a repetition and how this can be achieved.
A few sources should give the investigator all that is needed to know.
Interviews • Interviewing the person(s) involved and witnesses to the accident is of prime importance, ideally in familiar surroundings so as not to make the person uncomfortable. • The interview style is important with emphasis on prevention rather than blame. • The person(s) should give an account of what happened in their terms rather than the investigators.
Interviews • Interviews should be separate to stop people from influencing each other. • Questions when asked should not be intimidating as the investigator will be seen as aggressive and reflecting a blame culture.
Observation The accident site should be inspected as soon as possible after the accident. Particular attention should/must be given to: • Positions of people. • Personnel protective equipment (PPE). • Tools and equipment, plant or substances in use. • Orderliness/Tidiness.
Documents Documentation to be looked at includes: • Written instructions, procedures and risk assessments which should have been in operation and followed. The validity of these documents may need to be checked by interview. The main points to look for are: Ø Are they adequate/satisfactory? Ø Were they followed on this occasion? Ø Were people trained/competent to follow it? • Records of inspections, tests, examination and surveys undertaken before the event. These provide information on how and why the circumstances leading to the event arose.
Determining Causes • Collect all information and facts which surround the accident. • Immediate causes are obvious and easy to find. They are brought about by unsafe acts and conditions and are the ACTIVE FAILURES. Unsafe acts show poor safety attitudes and indicate a lack of proper training. • These unsafe acts and conditions are brought about by the so called ‘root causes’. These are the LATENT FAILURES and are brought about by failures in organisation and the management’s safety system.
Determine what changes are needed The investigation should determine what control measures were absent, inadequate or not implemented and so generate remedial action for implementation to correct this.
Generally, remedial actions should follow the hierarchy of risk control: • Eliminate Risks by substituting the dangerous by the inherently less dangerous. • Combat risks at source by engineering controls and giving collective protective measures priority. • Minimise risk by designing suitable systems of working. • Use PPE as a last resort.
Recording & Analysing the Results • Recorded in a similar and systematic manner. • Provides a historical record of the accident. • Analysis of the causes and recommended preventative protective measures should be listed. • Completed as soon after the accident as possible. • Information on the accident and remedial actions should be passed to all supervisors. • Appropriate preventative measures may also have to be implemented by such supervisors. • Investigation reports and accident statistics should be analysed from time to time to identify common causes, features and trends not be apparent from looking at events in isolation.
Reviewing the Process Reviewing the accident/incident investigation process should consider: • The results of investigations and analysis. • The operation of the investigation system (in terms of quality and effectiveness). Line managers should follow through and action the findings of investigations and analysis. Follow up systems should be established where necessary to keep progress under control.
The investigation system should be examined from time to time to check that it consistently delivers information in accordance with the stated objectives and standards. This usually requires: • Checking samples of investigation forms to verify the standard of investigation and the judgements made about causation and prioritisation of remedial actions. • Checking the numbers of incidents, near misses, injury and ill-health events; • Checking that all events are being reported.