Why Incident Investigations Should Be Done By Managers!

Health and Safety Incident Investigations Should Be Done By Managers

Date Posted: 16th August 2021

Health and Safety Incident Investigations Should Be Done By Managers!

Effective health and safety professionals don’t investigate the accidents, they don’t do the risk assessments and they don’t do the inspections. They may help by getting involved in some of the more serious ones by offering advice and so on, but really, incident investigations should be done primarily by the front line supervisors and managers. They are the ones, after all, who understand the task, the risks, and how things are done better than anybody else. And when you give this responsibility to supervisors and managers, there are some risks.

Lack of Training

Without any training or coaching they are likely to focus only on the immediate causes. Probably even just individual faults, individual actions, or start to put the blame on operators, for example, if someone falls off a ladder, they may assume the individual is clumsy.

My personal favourite was when someone was driving a forklift, and accidentally dropped a large barrel of toxic chemicals in a yard and the chemical went down the drain. And the action was take more care when driving over potholes. It didn’t address why the potholes were there, and it didn’t address why the drum was not strapped to the pallets.

And so people need training in how to investigate incidents. And so what we’re going to try to do is get them to go past the immediate causes and into the underlying and root causes. But then there’s another problem. What I observe in my training is that people then take this to heart and they bypass the immediate causes and they jump straight into what they think are the underlying and root causes. So they’ll jump from: “someone fell off a ladder”, to: “managers don’t care about health and safety”, or “the person hasn’t been given enough time to do things safely”.

So they’ll just make assumptions as to what those underlying causes are. And that’s not very useful. So I teach them the simple “5 Whys Analysis”.

Q: “Why did the person fall off a ladder?” (And the first answers to this question should be absolutely obvious).

A: “Because the floor was uneven”.

A: “Because nobody footed the ladder”.

A: “Because he was overreaching”.

This then gives us three different branches we can explore. So Let’s explore one of them.

Q: “Why was he overreaching?”

A: “Because he didn’t reposition the ladder”.

Q: “Why didn’t he reposition the ladder?”.

A: “Because he was trying to do the job quickly”.

Q: “Why was he trying to do the job quickly?”

A: “Because he had deadlines, targets, pressure, and so on.

The key to this is that we don’t just want to fix the root causes. We want to fix all the causes. The immediate causes, underlying causes and the root causes.

If you want your Incident Investigation to be useful and effective, and all this requires training.

Practice Makes Perfect

But training isn’t the only thing you need. You need to practice these skills to get better at them.

So, health and safety incident investigations should be done by managers and not health and safety professionals, but they should be given the4 training, coaching, support and practice they need to get better at it.

Have a lovely day all of you!