WHAT ARE INCIDENT INVESTIGATIONS?
When an accident or injury occurs in the workplace, it’s important to learn from it by conducting an incident investigation. Employers are legally required to investigate fatalities, serious injuries, injuries requiring medical treatment, and near misses. A near miss is an incident where there was a potential for injury, death, or damage.
Start your investigation immediately. Investigations should include a worker representative (preferably someone from the joint occupational health and safety committee) and an employer representative (for example, an appropriate supervisor or manager).
The aim is to look for the primary causes of the incident so you can take steps to prevent a similar incident from happening again. Look for unsafe conditions, acts, or procedures that led to the incident.
After identifying the causes, think of action items or recommendations that will prevent a recurrence. For example, you might need to change the type of equipment that your workers use or develop new work procedures. Assign action items to people in your organization who have the skills, the tools, and the time to implement them. Don’t forget to follow up to make sure the items get done.
It helps to put due dates on each of the action items — ask for emails to confirm when each item has been done. Don’t forget to consult with the people who will be carrying out the action items to make sure the due dates are realistic. It’s also a good idea to keep a folder where you can file hard copies of documents, such as refresher training.
Finally, you need to document the incident by completing an incident investigation report. Visit WorkSafeBC.com and look for the official Employer Incident Investigation Form. Send copies of the report to your local WorkSafeBC office and to your joint health and safety committee or worker health and safety representative.
INCIDENT INVESTIGATIONS IN SKI AREAS
“Incident investigations are time sensitive,” says Wendy Olsson, occupational health and safety supervisor for Whistler Blackcomb. When a serious incident occurs, Wendy immediately contacts the appropriate supervisor or manager, who is then required to file an initial report by the end of the shift.
Wendy starts by reporting a brief description of the incident to WorkSafeBC, usually by telephone. As more information is collected, she emails a more detailed report to WorkSafeBC and to Whistler Blackcomb management and the safety department.
Wendy interviews the injured worker if possible and collects witness statements. In ski areas, witnesses may include members of the public. Ski patrollers will also do their own report of how they attended to the injury and how the person was transported to further medical attention.
Collecting information is the main goal at this point, but Wendy looks for recommendations as well. “Toward the end of the conversation, I ask for the person’s input,” she says. “Ultimately the goal is to come up with action items to prevent a recurrence, especially if it’s a near miss that has the potential for a more serious outcome.”
BC SKI AREA INCIDENT INVESTIGATION TOOL
go2HR’s Ski Area Technical Advisory Committee (TAC) aims to develop strategies, resources, and tools to reduce workplace incidents in ski areas, and to decrease the duration of injuries. The TAC is composed of ski area representatives, including members from human resources, health and safety, and risk management.
The TAC recently consulted with industry to develop its latest resource, the BC Ski Area Incident Investigation Tool. The tool is an easy-to-use, automated Excel-based form that simplifies the investigation process. It was developed specifically for the needs of ski areas in BC. For example, falls make up about 60% of the incidents at ski areas, so the tool includes 15 different types of falls, allowing investigators to describe incidents more accurately. The tool also allows users to analyze data across multiple incidents.
For more information on this topic, review another great resource: COR Element 5: Investigation of Incidents/Accidents