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Workplace Accident Investigation Procedure

Updated on August 9, 2012

When accidents occur, it must be investigated by the employer, or by those designated by that employer. This could include the safety and health executives of the firm.

It is important to have a standard investigation procedure for the firm. This is to make sure everyone is on the same page and no vital information would be missing from the investigation. Thus, having a standard, future investigator can replicate the process to a desired level.

A General Investigation Procedure

  1. Quickly establish the fact of the accident as comprehensively possible. Take note the location of the accident and the work environment, e.g. rain, blackout. Identify the plant, machinery, equipment and hazardous substances involved in the accident. Establish the standard operating procedure (SOP) with respect to the work done at the time of the accident. While focusing on the victim's SOP is important, consider the SOP of other workers who may have interacted or connected with the accident. Determine the sequence of events leading to the accident.
  2. Draw up sketches and diagrams of the accident scene.
  3. Before anything is moved or tempered with, snap a few photos. It goes without saying the importance of a fully charged digital camera or camera phone. Your equipment should be cleared by your management first.
  4. Draw up the list of witnesses. This should include the worker(s) involved in the accident, i.e. victim(s), as well as those working in the vicinity. The worker's supervisor or superiors cannot be ruled out as they were the ones responsible for the activities of their subordinates. List the witnesses.
  5. In the presence of a third party, interview all the witnesses. It may be best to interview them individually to prevent a melting pot of testimonials. Where possible, ensure that the witnesses does not have the opportunity to discuss the events or the details. Record the full statement in writing, and through a recording device. Caution the interviewee that his or her statements are being recorded. It is also crucial to have the witness go through the written statement. They must agree to it and sign and date the document.
  6. Evaluate the facts and statements of the witnesses. Keep in mind that as investigator, the values are accuracy, reliability and relevance.
  7. Conclusions must arrive at both direct and indirect causes of the accident. Ensure that these causes may be supported by the relevant facts.
  8. Contradicting information should not be dismissed. Instead, examine it closely. You may want to find out more.
  9. Examine the standard operating procedure involved. Check the variables: age, number of workers, supervision level, and nature of the work.
  10. Have a technician or engineer on standby. Their expertise may be required in examining equipment and plant.
  11. Write out the Investigation Report. It should incorporate: stages of the accident and its causes, measures to prevent similar occurrences in the future.

Who Should Investigate

Typically, any employee may be assigned to investigate. But larger organisations may assign this role to the personnel responsible for Occupational Safety and Health.

As experience as the safety and health officer (SHO) may be, sometimes she may need assistance of a committee. The SHO may take the lead in the investigation while the committee members relay vital information and interpretation of data. This scenario is appropriate for complex and serious cases. Having such an investigation committee would cost more.

Why must the investigation be thorough?

Some accidents may reveal criminal elements being involved. It is important to report to the proper authorities, typically the police. Findings from the company's own investigation may aid the police in theirs.

In the same manner, investigation results can assist the company where civil action is initiated against or by it.


Accident Investigation is an important activity which must be performed. But it's practical aim is to ensure investigations can be eliminated or be less frequent in the future. As the accident rate reduces, the number of investigation also reduces. The outcome is to ensure the workplace can contain or eliminate the hazards present.


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