The 6 Steps to an Accident Investigation Process

You can prevent future incidents if you have a robust accident investigation process. This determines what led to the accident and then strategizes the correct preventative measures to be implemented.

In fact, OSHA prefers using the term “incident” rather than “accident” because “accident” implies that the event is random, unavoidable and out of anyone’s control. But, OSHA argues that fatalities, injuries and illnesses in the workplace are preventable.

So, incidents, accidents, and even near misses require thorough investigation to identify the root causes rather than just writing it off as carelessness or negligence. 

An employer needs to perform an accident investigation correctly for it to be effective.

Here are some steps for an employer to follow for a good foundation of an effective accident investigation.

Step 1: Immediately Provide Medical Attention

Before doing anything else, the most important thing to do is provide the adequate medical attention required by the injured worker.

Establish whether first aid will suffice or if more intensive medical care is needed.

The supervisor should immediately take action – to preserve the worker’s health and safety and prevent further injuries or damage. 

The supervisor should accompany the injured worker to receive medical attention. They are responsible for relaying to the physician what the worker’s job duties entail so that the physician can determine:

Step 2: Record the Workplace Incident if Needed

If the incident is OSHA recordable, the downloadable and printable 300, 300A and 301 Injury and Illness Recordkeeping Forms should be used to do so.

Remember, a workplace incident that requires first aid isn’t recordable. 

Recordable incidents in the workplace include:

accident investigation process

Step 3: Perform Accident Investigations

Perform an accident investigation as soon as possible after the incident’s occurrence. Therefore, the supervisor needs to return to the scene as soon as possible to do so. 

All staff should be trained to see the site where the incident occurred as a restricted area. They should preserve the accident scene as-is until the supervisor can begin the incident investigation. No materials should be tampered with, disturbed or removed as they all form part of the physical evidence.

At this point in the incident investigation, the supervisor’s duties include:

The supervisor should also identify witnesses and interview them privately in a timely manner so they won’t forget any information. Witnesses are required to sign their statements for verification. 

Questions to witnesses should include:

accident investigation process

Step 4: Conduct a Root Cause Analysis

Once you establish an accurate account of what occurred from accident investigations, you can begin finding out the root causes.

Identifying the root cause is the most important part of accident investigation. It allows for corrective measures to be put into place to prevent recurrences of accidents and further injury.

The supervisor should consider the incident and identify the essential contributing factors:

Identifying these underlying causes will aid in coming up with cause theories (there should be more than one), which should be used to determine the root cause.

For example, if the injury was a fall, there should be theories of multiple causes:

Step 5: Create a Written Final Report

This step in the accident investigation process is to document all findings thus far in a written report.

This report will be what’s referred back to, so it’s crucial that it be comprehensive and factual – especially for litigation purposes. 

The report should include:

Step 6: Develop a Plan of Corrective Actions To Prevent Future Incidents

Corrective actions intend to address the root causes of the incident and create a plan to execute and implement that will prevent future workplace incidents.

Essentially, this plan is to fix the problem that resulted in the incident in the first place. An accident that happens more than once is no longer an accident but a systemic problem.

These can include:

accident investigation process

How Insure Compliance Can Help

We offer a unique Safety Gap Model to identify the gaps in your company and provide strategies to overcome them.

The five gaps include:

Key Takeaways

There are six key steps to follow when it comes to investigating accidents in the workplace; these include:

  1. Medical attention should be provided immediately, whether that entails first aid or a check-up from a physician.
  2.  If the incident is recordable, it should be recorded according to the necessary protocols.
  3.  The supervisor should perform accident investigations, including identifying and interviewing witnesses.
  4. All possible causes should be recorded to identify the root causes.
  5. A final written investigation report should be compiled, documenting all findings.
  6. Establish a plan detailing corrective actions to be implemented to prevent any future incidents of the same nature.

For comprehensive training on the accident investigation process,
contact us today, and we can help maximize your OSHA compliance while saving you money.  


Please note that every effort has been made to ensure that the information provided in this guide is accurate. You should note, however, that the information is intended as a guide only, providing an overview of general information available to businesses. This guide is not intended to be an exhaustive source of information and should not be seen to constitute legal, safety or business advice. You should, where necessary, seek your own advice for any issues raised in your affairs.

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