Conducting your own investigation into a workplace incident will help you work out what caused it, and therefore help you make sure a similar incident won’t happen again.
You must investigate and document:
- serious incidents
- incidents that result in injuries needing medical treatment
- incidents with the potential for serious injury (for example, near misses).
Start your investigation as soon as it is possible and safe to do so.
Don’t forget to first notify WorkSafe if the incident is ‘notifiable’.
Who should take part in an investigation
Everyone in your workplace has a role to play. Workers must report incidents to their supervisors. Employers must initiate incident investigations promptly.
If possible, have an investigation team of at least one employer representative and one worker representative.
The goals of your investigation
As far as possible, an investigation must:
- determine the causes of the incident
- identify any unsafe conditions, acts or procedures that contributed to the incident
- find ways to prevent similar incidents.
Who to talk to
Interview witnesses and the people involved in the incident even if they weren’t present at the incident. For example, it may be appropriate to interview a supervisor who gave instructions at the start of the shift or a trainer who previously instructed the workers involved.
Questions to ask
- Who was involved or injured?
- Where did the incident happen?
- When did it occur?
- What were the causes?
- Why was an unsafe act or condition allowed?
- How can similar incidents be prevented?
Factors to consider
Usually several factors cause or contribute to an incident. Try to identify as many as possible. They may include:
- unsafe or defective equipment
- unsafe environment or conditions
- poor housekeeping
- physical hazards
- poor planning
- poor instruction
- unsafe work practices
- unusual or unfamiliar work conditions
- personal factors.
Investigating musculoskeletal injuries
These injuries (such as sprains or strains) may need you to think about events a little differently.
They may not result from a single event such as lifting or twisting, but rather from activity carried out over time.
Investigating this sort of injury may indicate a need to change:
- work methods
- work area layout
- use of mechanical aids
- work breaks and rotation.
Again, consulting with the workers involved should help find a solution.
What to do next
After your investigation is complete, share the findings with your:
- work health and safety committee
- health and safety representatives.
Act on any recommendations for change, whether they relate to work procedures, the workplace environment, training and supervision practices, or equipment or chemicals used.