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Accident Investigation 101: What to Do and What Not to Do

Today has been one of those days. A problem with a major piece of equipment resulted in a one-hour production delay, which squeezed an already tight deadline and 10 minutes later one of your workers was injured while working with that machinery.

You now have an accident investigation on your hands and there are several things you need to do and other things you must not do. Here’s a list that can help you respond appropriately to an accident or incident.


  • If there has been an injury, immediately summon an employee trained in first aid to assess the situation and call for emergency medical help.
  • Immediately notify your company’s safety and health department about the situation to ensure that workers’ compensation branch officials or federal, state or provincial safety authorities will be notified in accordance with reporting requirements.
  • Ensure that the incident scene is secured so that nothing is disturbed before health and safety investigators arrive.
  • Take a series of photographs to depict the conditions present at the time of the accident/incident, including where the worker was positioned at the time, what equipment was in use, whether appropriate guards were in place and the positions of machinery controls/switches.
  • Talk to any witnesses to the incident as soon as possible and record their observations. It can also be helpful to make a sketch outlining the conditions at the time. Examine the accident scene carefully to determine what caused the incident and what must be done to minimize the chances of another event in the future.
  • Determine whether there was an equipment failure or whether material being used was suitable and safe for the task.
  • Look at environmental conditions at the time of the accident, including weather, lighting, housekeeping, noise and the presence of toxic or hazardous substances.
  • Look at the training the affected worker had received, his or her level of experience, that person’s health, the person’s state of mind at the time and other possible contributing factors such as fatigue.
  • Keep an open mind to explore all possible causes of the incident.
  • Write down your conclusions about how and why the incident occurred.
  • Develop a corrective action plan with specific recommendations and dates for implementing them.
  • Monitor the safety improvements and make additional changes as needed.


  • Wait until the next day to talk to witnesses. Someone could easily forget a vital detail.
  • Make the assumption that ONE circumstance caused the event. There can be many causes, including worker fatigue, distraction, insufficient training or cutting corners by not carefully following safety procedures.
  • Jump to conclusions.
  • Ask leading questions of witnesses.
  • Intimidate witnesses.
  • Interrupt witnesses while they are answering a question.
  • Look for someone to blame for the incident. Your focus should be on determining what went wrong and taking appropriate preventive measures.
Bongarde Editorial

Bongarde Editorial

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