Accident and incident investigation is a very important activity in the workplace. It is equally an important part of an occupational health and safety management system.
ISO 45001:2018 Occupational health and management system standard defined an Accident as an incident where injury and ill health occur.
An incident, on the other hand, is an occurrence arising out of, or in the course of work that could or does result in injury and ill health.
The report will enable the investigation process to be set in motion.
The employer is obliged by law to commence a detailed accident and incident investigation to ascertain the true knowledge of what happened and how to prevent any recurrence.
When the investigation team goes into action, the Safety head in the organization is usually the team leader. And the bulk of the responsibilities lies in his hand during the entire activity.
Some workers for many reasons may not want to report an accident when it happens.
Below are the likely reasons why they will choose not to report an accident in the workplace.
1. Poor understanding of the meaning of accident and incident investigation.
Some employees may not know about the importance of an accident investigation.
And they may likely not report any accident when it happens.
We all know that when the importance of something is not known, abuse is inevitable.
For this, it’s expedient to always pass the message of reporting accidents and incidents on-site to the employees at all times.
2. Fear of medical treatment.
Some workers, for some reason, don’t like medical treatment.
And they’ll like to remain silent when something happens to them in the course of their work.
3. Avoidance of work interruptions.
Reporting of accidents or incidents will necessitate a work interruption for some period. And for the workers to meet up with their target, they’ll avoid making such a report.
Employees don’t want anyone to blame them for reporting an accident. And some of them are afraid of being dismissed from work if an investigation suggests the cause of the accident to be from what they failed to do or from what they didn’t do well.
5. To have a good personal record.
Some employees may want not to give any report that will diminish their good personal record.
Although that may not happen since they are doing their responsibility. Moreover, when they are victims themselves of an accident, they’ll still keep to themselves.
6. Excessive paperwork.
Some workers may not like to report an accident or an incident when it involves a lot of paperwork.
Some employees who can’t write may try to avoid making an incident report.
7. Some organization does not have any reporting system.
Some organization has a poor reporting system. And in some places, they are non-existent.
Whenever there is an accident or an incident to report, they will not know what to do.
The appropriate person to report is not known. And even what to use in the reporting is not there. So it goes on and on like this.
8. Having more concern about the safety record.
Sometimes, to maintain a clean safety record, employees will avoid reporting accidents and incidents. They want to maintain their safety targets for the year.
9. The organizational policy is not clear to the employees.
Occupational health and safety policies are statements of intent and majorly on what the organization wants to achieve with regards to health and safety.
It’ll be very difficult for an employee to report incidents and accidents if the policy is not clear. And the employer didn’t communicate it properly in the workplace.
10. Having concerned about the reputation of the organization.
No one wants to work in a place that has a bad reputation arising from accident and incident records.
For this, accidents are not reported to maintain a ‘false clean reputation’. But in the true sense, this action does more harm to the organization.
However, when you look at the reasons for not reporting an accident or incident, you’ll know that it does no one any good.
And for the best part of reporting incidents, it’ll necessitate the investigation to start. And so, it gives more room for lessons to be learnt and for the management to put in measures to prevent any recurrence.
But in all, here are some reasons why an accident investigation is very important in the workplace.
1. To locate the accident and incident cause.
An accident causes will have a root cause and an immediate cause.
Those immediate causes are unsafe acts from a worker or the unsafe conditions in the work environment.
The root cause is mostly about what the employer didn’t do right or what they failed to do.
Unsafe acts are
- Working with unsafe equipment.
- Working on moving equipment.
- Improper use of equipment.
- Failure to wear personal protective equipment.
- Wearing an unsafe clothing
- Working in an unsafe position.
- Unsafe speeding during driving.
Unsafe conditions such as
- Hazardous arrangement.
- Poor housekeeping
- Unsafe guarding.
- Public hazards.
- Slippery floor.
- Unsafe workplace.
- Defective designs.
Underlying root causes such as
- Failure to supervise workers during work.
- The employer’s failure to provide sufficient training for employees.
- Failure to carry out a proper risk assessment in the workplace.
- Lack of equipment maintenance.
- Failure to provide PPE regularly to workers.
2. To determine the cost of an accident.
When an accident happens, and they are properly investigated, the various cost of the accident is known.
Such can be direct or indirect costs.
The direct cost of an accident include
- First aid cost is given to the injured worker.
- Sick pay to the injured worker.
- Damaged product or equipment.
- Cost from lost production time while dealing with the injured worker.
- Cost from the overtime to make up for the lost time resulting from the accident.
- Compensation is given to the accident victim.
- Court fines if the employer is found wanting as a result of the accident.
Indirect costs such as
- loss of reputation from the public resulting in a bad image for the company.
- There could be a loss of goodwill from the customers when the company failed to meet up with their deadline resulting in an accident.
- Cost of training a new worker for replacement.
- Staff morale could be affected as a result of the accident. This could trickle down to affecting the overall productivity in the workplace.
3. Publicizing the cause of an accident/incident.
Communicating the cause of an accident would be a benefit to all the departments in the workplace. The use of mails, memos and toolbox talks, in this approach, would be good. When employees are informed about what happened, they can easily know what to do to prevent any future occurrence.
4. Prevention of recurrence of similar accidents.
Through being aware of what happened, with the appropriate precautions in place. Preventing the
Recurrence of a similar accident is certain
5. It reveals the training needs of the company.
Accidents reveal gaps in the system where the employer has to conduct training or additional training. Training of workers in those areas will encourage an accident-free work environment.
6. Fulfilment of a legal requirement and other requirements.
The legal requirement for an employer to investigate and report accidents. ISO 45001:2018 management system expects the employer to maintain and retain the relevant documents on incidences and the results of action following the incidents.
7. For disciplinary purposes.
Conducting an accident and incident investigation will likely lead the employer to take disciplinary action against the worker whose behaviour gave rise to the accident.
8. For data compilation.
Accident and incident data can reveal a lot of trends and patterns in the workplace.
Over time, such data will help the employer in making an informed decision on how to improve the occupational health and safety management system.
Also, Good quality data serves for reference purposes.
Accident and incident investigation is a very vital activity in the workplace.
When utilized properly, it puts the employer in a very good position to promote occupational health and safety in the workplace.
Even though, some workers may choose not to report an incident or accident for some reasons.
But the main responsibility lies on the employer to always promote the importance and benefits of reporting an incident on site.
And that, in turn, will encourage a safe working environment
Onyeka Emma is a QHSE Professional, a business person, and an entrepreneur. He is very passionate about health and safety, Business and Entrepreneurship.