How to conduct an accident investigation

An injury review process allows hospitals to go far beyond the traditional response to accidents by seeking the root causes and developing solutions. Here are some steps to take, as outlined by Janet Abernathy, RN, senior consultant for accident prevention at Royal & SunAlliance in Walnut Creek, CA.

1. Convene a meeting of the injury review committee. The team will likely include representatives from employee health and human resources as well as the safety officer. The committee asks the employee and supervisor to discuss details of the accident and how they believe it could be prevented.

2. Emphasize the positive. The purpose of accident review is to prevent future accidents. It is not blame setting or faultfinding. Make this clear at the outset and adjourn the meeting if the tone becomes negative and punitive.

3. Ask the employee about the incident. While you may ask about the employee’s recovery, avoid discussion of the workers’ compensation claim and benefits. Ask for details about what happened, how the worker believes it could have been prevented, and what he or she believes caused or contributed to the accident.

4. Ask the supervisor to add information. The supervisor may provide more details about the circumstances surrounding the accident, what may have led to the accident, and any corrective action that may have been taken immediately afterward.

5. Brainstorm about primary and contributing causes. After the supervisor and employee leave the meeting, the team members begin to dissect their information. Were there issues involving equipment, leadership, procedures, or training? The team may seek additional information, including a visit to the work site or discussions with co-workers. For example, if safety equipment was available but not used, why wasn’t it?

6. Determine solutions and take action. The team identifies steps that could be taken to prevent future occurrences. This includes assigning responsibility for implementing the corrective measures and setting target dates for completion. The team should follow up to make sure appropriate steps have been taken.