Close your eyes. Imagine an employer’s worst nightmare: there’s been a workplace accident. A long-time worker, one who’s like family, has been seriously injured. Are you prepared to deal with the aftermath?
It can be easy to let emotions take over and guide the actions one may take in the immediate aftermath of a tragedy. However, when it comes to workplace accidents, cooler heads must prevail, as there is a specific process that must be followed. By learning and following the accident investigation process, you are proactively preparing to deal with a worst-case scenario. This illustrates due diligence on the part of the employer, good planning, and a commitment to the health, safety, and wellness of your work family.
What is an “Accident”?
An accident is defined as “a sudden, unplanned event that causes harm to a person or damage to property.”
Critical Injury Regulation 834, found in the Occupational Health and Safety Act (the Act) states that an injury is critical if one of the following circumstances is met:
- Places life in jeopardy
- Produces unconsciousness
- Results in substantial blood loss
- Involves fracture of arm or leg, but not finger or toe
- Involves amputation of arm or leg, foot or hand, but not finger or toe
- Consists of burns to major portion of the body
- Cause loss of sight in one or both eyes
The focus of the accident investigation must remain on the accident, rather than the injury. As well, an accident investigation is about determining immediate and root causes of the accident, not about placing blame.
Step 1: Call 911
When there is a critical injury, emergency services must be notified right away. If there is a suspected fatality, be sure to state as much, as dispatch will send police as well. Be prepared to stay on the line, to answer as many questions as you can, and to be potentially coached through life-saving measures, such as cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR).
Step 2: Know When to Disturb the Scene…and When Not to Disturb the Scene
After a workplace accident, the scene is supposed to be left unaltered. However, there are instances under which you may enter the scene.
Disturbing the scene means altering, interfering with, destroying, or removing anything related to the scene. Section 51(2) of the Act & Regulations states that in the event of a critical accident or fatality, a Ministry of Labour, Training, and Skills Development (MLTSD) inspector must give permission before a scene can be disturbed with the exception of the following:
A scene may be disturbed without MLTSD permission to:
- Save a life
- Relieve human suffering
- Maintain an essential utility or service
- Prevent unnecessary equipment damage
Step 3: Administer First Aid
Provided that offering first aid does not place anyone at greater risk, first aid should be administered if it is required until emergency services arrive. It is okay to disturb the accident scene to deliver first aid if it is safe to do so.
Step 4: Secure and Manage the Scene
The responsibility for securing and managing the scene rests on the employer and/or the supervisor. Controlling the scene includes:
- Clearing employees from the area
- Controlling or eliminating sources of imminent danger
- Ensuring that there is minimal scene disturbance, aside from anything required to be disturbed to deliver first aid and/or control or eliminate an imminent danger
Step 5: Reporting
When there is a critical injury or fatality, the following parties must be notified immediately:
- Joint Health and Safety Committee (JHSC)
- Union (if applicable)
- MLTSD (a written report must also be submitted within 41 days)
- Police (the police may automatically attend if dispatched, but must be notified of a death or any instance of fatality or injury involving workplace violence)
Step 6: Conduct an Investigation
The MLTSD, the police, and the JHSC may all be conducting their own investigations concurrently. You must work alongside each investigation, provide any documentation requested, and cooperate with all investigations.
There are several components to an accident investigation:
- Secure the scene
- Gather evidence
- Interview witnesses
- Investigate the root cause(s)
It is best practice to conduct interviews immediately. Ask simple, non-suggestive, and open-ended questions.
Once you’ve organized the information and separated facts from opinions, conclusions must be drawn to determine immediate and root causes.
Step 7: Create a Final Report and Make Recommendations
The final report will contain a detailed description of the accident, the harm created, the immediate and root cause(s), temporary or permanent controls implemented, and recommendations. Attach any photos, interview notes, drawings, and other applicable supporting documents. Recommendations made to management should be specific and detailed. They must be focused on root causes.
Step 8: Follow up
Ensure that recommendations are being followed through the use of a timeline for corrective action, as well as monitoring, and effective training and education.
Accident Investigation Training
No employer wants to have to follow the eight steps above; however, the most proactive employers are always prepared in the event they do have to conduct an accident investigation. It is by effective accident investigation training that employers can best safeguard from having to investigate the injury or death of one of their own.
Best Safety Training Can Help
Best Safety Training has recently updated their Accident Investigation training program. Let the Best Safety Training company take care of your training needs.