Why incident investigation and reporting is important?

The key reason for an investigation of any workplace incident is to prevent the recurrence of that incident and to comply with the reporting requirement of the WHS laws. However, finding out the causes of incidents is very helpful in controlling or eliminating such accidents in the future. To understand the causes of any accident that occurs in the workplace, and why and how thisincident happened, investigators need to gather all the facts pertaining to before and during the incident.

Safe Work Australia requires that “Persons conducting a business or undertaking (PCBUs) must notify their WHS regulator of certain serious health and safety incidents at work. These are referred to as notifiable incidents” In order to deal with an emergency, it becomes necessary to initiate an incident investigation as well as document the steps that are taken. Speed and timeline become very important in this whole process to make it successful. Hazards and Near Misses to be identified and reported on time: Incident reporting can act as a heads up for the management that helps to identify potential deficiencies or problem areas that are needed to be addressed. Increased culture of the unsafe act, unsafe behaviour, hazards and near miss reporting can prevent future adverse situations from developing into major incidents. Enforce the safety culture:Incident investigations should not focus on finding fault or blame. Rather, they should instead focus on identifying and correcting root causes, as this approach demonstrates the employer’s commitment to a safe and healthful workplace. Incident investigations that focus on identifying and correcting root causes improve employee morale and attitude towards health and safety by demonstrating an employer’s commitment to a safe and healthy workplace. Employees will be more cooperative in implementing recommendations if they are involved in the decision-making process through consultation and participation process and they can be more observant towards hazards identification and reporting. Incident reporting becomes important if resilient safety cultures are to become workplace norms. Reducing the frequency of incidents by identifying systemic failures:The investigation team should look beyond the immediate causes of an incident. It is far too easy and often misleading to conclude that carelessness or failure to follow a procedure alone was the cause of an incident. To do so fails to discover the underlying or root causes of the incident, and therefore fails to identify the systemic changes and measures needed to prevent future incidents. Correcting only an immediate cause may eliminate a symptom of a problem, but not the problem itself. When a shortcoming is identified, it is essential to ask why it existed and why it was not previously addressed. While investigations only provide feedback concerning the specific scenario, causal factors of an incident are still reported – addressing such factors reduces the frequency of the causes of the incident as well as the consequences of a similar incident in the future. The steps to conducting an effective incident investigation are: Provide an initial response to the incident:Providing initial response to the incident including first aid where required must be a priority to prevent further injuries or damage. in case of serious incidents, an incident site must not be disturbed until an inspector arrives at the site or directs otherwise (whichever is earlier) so far as reasonably practicable. Report the incident as required by the organisation’s policies: All workplace safety incidents irrespective of severity must be reported and notified according to the organisation’s incident reporting policy and procedure. Investigate the incident as soon as possible after its occurrence:That allows one to observe the conditions as they were at the time of the accident, prevents disturbance of the evidence, and allows to identify witnesses. One needs to gather physical evidence, take photographs, and interview witnesses to understand the chain of events that led to the accident. Identify the causes of the incident:Note that there are usually multiple causes of the incident and the investigator must identify all relevant causes. Develop a plan for corrective actions to prevent the accidents from happening again: These actions should be SMART (Specific, Measurable, Actionable, Realistic, Time-bound) and address the root causes of the incident described in the report. Submit the findings in a written report:The investigation team must prepare a comprehensive incident investigation report providing the context of the incident, fact findings, evidence, and causes and documenting detailed recommendations so that management can take appropriate actions Implement the corrective action plans: It would be helpful to set a deadline for the implementation of corrective actions and monitoring with clear roles and responsibilities to ensure that they are completed within the stipulated timeframe. Follow-up:It is a good practice to evaluate the effectiveness of the corrective actions taken and make necessary adjustments as needed and continue to improve. If you need help with an incident investigation or require ICAM incident investigation training, our team can help. Feel free to contact us by using the link below:

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