Thousands of incidents occur every day in the US. Effective incident investigations determine how and why these failures occur. By using the information gained through an investigation a similar, or perhaps more disastrous event, may be prevented. It is important to conduct incident investigations with prevention in mind.

Incident investigations really only have two goals:

  1. Determining what caused the incident in the first place
  2. Using the information you discovered during the investigation to help prevent recurrence

Incident InvestigationMany times, the cause of the incident is not completely obvious. During an incident investigation, it is imperative that all employees assist the investigator as he or she conducts the investigation. This can be difficult and/or embarrassing for some, so it is important to remind and reassure them that the ultimate goal of the investigation is to create a safer workplace for everyone. The goal of the investigation is not to assign blame, but rather keep the incident from occurring again.

So how do we begin? The first step is to ensure that any injured persons are being cared for and then to secure the area of the incident. The investigator should have an undisturbed view of the scene so that photos, video and measurements accurately portray the scene and any evidence contained therein. Further, interviews of witnesses, coworkers, supervisors, etc. need to be conducted. Investigators should also interview and obtain statements from those who perform similar jobs or jobs in the same area as the incident as they may have valuable insight into what may have happened.

Some incident investigators use a technique called a “root cause” analysis during their investigation. A root cause analysis helps identify what, how and why something happened, thus preventing recurrence. Root causes are underlying, reasonably identifiable and can be controlled by management. Furthermore, they allow for generation of recommendations. The process involves data collection, cause charting, root cause identification and recommendation generation and implementation.

While a lot can be learned from workplace incidents, we can also learn from “near-misses”. Near-misses are incidents that didn’t involve an injury, but could have resulted with terrible consequences. To prevent them, make sure near-misses are always reported so your supervisor can address them. The information learned from a near-miss is far less expensive than what is learned from an incident. Remember, prevention is always the best cure.

No matter how safe workers do their jobs, an incident can always happen. Following the basic steps can enable incident investigators to do their job correctly and find the root cause of the incident. A proper incident investigation can create a safer workplace, which in the end, is good for everyone.

If you would like more information on incident investigation training for your supervisors contact Trevor Reschny at 407-760-6170 or email him at treschny [at]