Investigating incidents is a pivotal responsibility for safety professionals, playing a crucial role in organisational safety management. While these processes hold great significance, there is often room for enhancement in their effectiveness as learning mechanisms throughout organisations.
In this article, we delve into the components of an efficient incident investigation process and how ISO 45001 can help organisations effectively manage workplace incidents and safeguard the health and safety of the workforce.
Incident management represents the organisational procedure for addressing unforeseen events or ‘incidents.’ In the workplace, effective incident management serves several crucial purposes.
To start with, it prioritises the safety of employees and others potentially affected by such incidents. Additionally, it seeks to mitigate the impact of these events and associated hazards on the organisation’s operations.
Furthermore, it provides a platform for the organisation to learn from incidents, thus enhancing its overall health and safety management compliance.
The management of incidents encompasses a range of activities, including immediate response, notification, reporting, documentation, thorough investigation, and the implementation of corrective measures. These measures span various areas, including health, safety, environment, operations, security, and information technology.
When responding to an incident, management actions primarily aim to safeguard employees, the environment, facilities, production, and the community while minimising adverse impacts. Subsequently, the corrective measures instituted after an incident should always target the elimination or reduction of occupational health and safety risks and the prevention of further incident occurrences.
Workplace Incident Investigations
Investigating every workplace incident to ascertain the precise circumstances and contributing factors is a fundamental practice. It serves the purpose of delivering an initial diagnosis and formulating strategies to avert the recurrence of similar incidents.
The Incident Management Process
Promptly designating an individual or team to oversee the investigation is crucial. These designated personnel should be chosen based on their expertise, familiarity with the workplace, and adeptness in work practices. Safety-related incidents warrant comprehensive investigation methodologies to ensure the identification of all contributing factors and root causes.
Efforts to obtain witness statements and conduct interviews should be initiated expeditiously, barring exceptional circumstances such as serious injuries. If necessary, witnesses should be separated to secure unbiased statements.
A preliminary incident report should be prepared within 24 hours of an injury, and subsequently transmitted to management with due haste.
Based on the investigative findings, the formulation of corrective actions designed to mitigate risks measures is paramount. These actions should be implemented as soon as reasonably feasible to forestall the possibility of recurrence. Continuous monitoring of these corrective actions is imperative to validate their effectiveness.
Maintaining meticulous records of all incident investigations and the corresponding corrective actions aligns with best practices and legal obligations. Formal incident reports should be preserved as a category of ‘documented information.’
Incident Investigation as per the ISO 45001 Standard
The process of incident investigation, as detailed in ISO 45001, aligns with the standard’s Clause 10.2, focusing on ‘non-conformity and corrective action.’
In the context of ISO 45001, incident investigation serves as a vital tool for enhancing workplace safety and preventing future safety-related issues. A thorough ISO 45001 context analysis is crucial for understanding workplace factors, which can enhance the effectiveness of an incident investigation process.
Here’s how incident investigation harmonises with the key principles of Clause 10.2:
1) Immediate Response:
When an incident occurs, the first step is to provide immediate medical attention to the injured if necessary and ensure the safety of all personnel.
Secure the incident scene to prevent further risks or hazards.
Report the incident to relevant personnel, including supervisors, safety officers, and other relevant stakeholders.
3) Investigation Team Formation:
Form an investigation team that includes individuals with the necessary skills and expertise to conduct a thorough investigation.
4) Gather Information:
Collect and preserve evidence related to the incident, including photographs, documents, and witness statements.
5) Root Cause Analysis:
Investigate the incident to determine the root causes, not just the immediate causes. Use techniques like the “5 Whys” or fishbone diagrams to identify underlying factors.
6) Corrective Actions:
Evaluate with the participation of workers and the involvement of interested parties, the need for corrective actions to eliminate the root cause. Develop and implement corrective actions to prevent a similar incident from occurring in the future. These actions may include process changes, additional training, or equipment improvements. Determine additional actions in accordance with the hierarchy of controls and the management of change. Assess OH&S risks that relate to new or changed hazards.
Maintain a detailed record of the incident investigation process, findings, and corrective actions taken.
Report the incident and its investigation findings to relevant parties, including management, regulatory authorities, and, in some cases, employees or their representatives.
9) Review and Analysis:
Analyse incident data to identify trends and areas for improvement within the organisation’s safety management system. Review existing assessments of OH&S risks and other risks as appropriate.
10) Lessons Learned:
Use the findings from incident investigations to improve safety policies, procedures, and training programs.
Communicate the results of the investigation and any corrective actions to the entire workforce to ensure awareness and involvement.
12) Continuous Improvement:
Continuously monitor and update the organisation’s safety management system to prevent incidents and improve overall safety performance.
ISO 45001 emphasises the importance of learning from incidents to enhance workplace safety, and the incident investigation process is a crucial tool in achieving this goal. It helps organisations identify and address underlying causes and implement corrective measures to protect the health and safety of employees.
1) Legal Adherence:
Australia upholds rigorous workplace health and safety laws, such as the Work Health and Safety Act 2011. Incident investigation is a legal imperative, and failing to comply can lead to penalties and repercussions.
2) Building Stakeholder Trust:
A firm commitment to incident investigation and safety in line with ISO 45001 augments an organisation’s reputation and fosters trust among employees, customers, and various stakeholders.
3) Reduced Cost:
Delving into incidents translates to a tangible reduction in the direct and indirect costs linked with workplace accidents. This includes medical expenses, compensation claims, diminished productivity, and potential legal outlays.
4) Continuous Enhancement:
Incident investigations are integral to the ethos of continual improvement championed by ISO 45001. The insights derived from investigations pave the way for superior safety protocols and processes, which, in turn, bolster an organisation’s performance and its adherence to ISO standards.
How can Anitech help?
Anitech’s proficient consultants are well-equipped to assist businesses in conducting efficient incident investigations by formulating and enacting a rigorous ISO 45001 management system while adhering to legislative investigation guidelines.
Organisations committed to fostering workplace safety and optimising their approach to incident investigation within the ISO 45001 framework, we encourage you to contact us.
Reach out to us at 1300 802 163 or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Your proactive steps today can ensure a safer and more efficient workplace tomorrow.