Investigation Interview Techniques and Investigation Form

Investigation Interview Techniques and Investigation Form

It must be made clear at the outset and during the interview that the aim is not to apportion blame but to discover the facts and use them to prevent similar accidents or incidents. 

A witness should be allowed to explain what happened in their way without too much interruption and suggestion. Questions should then be asked to elicit more information. These should be of the open type, which does not suggest the answer. Questions starting with the words in Figure 8.4 are useful. 

‘ Why ’ should not be used at this stage. The facts should be gathered first, with notes being taken at the end of the explanation. The investigator should then read them or give a summary back to the witness, indicating clearly that they are prepared to alter the notes if the witness is not content with them. 

Investigation Interview Techniques

If possible, an indication should be given to the witness about immediate actions that will be taken to prevent a similar occurrence. There could be further improvements depending on the outcome of the investigation

Seeing people injured can often be very upsetting for witnesses, which should be borne in mind. This does not mean they will not be prepared to talk about what has happened. They may wish to help, but questions should be sensitive; upsetting the witness further should be avoided. 

Comparison with relevant standards

There are usually suitable and relevant standards from the HSE, industry, or organization. These should be carefully considered to see if: 

  • suitable standards are available to cover legal standards and the controls required by the risk assessments; 
  • the standards are sufficient and available to the organization; the standards were implemented in practice; 
  • the standards were implemented, why there was a failure; 
  • changes should be made to the standards. 


The investigation should have highlighted both immediate causes and underlying causes. Recommendations for immediate action and longer-term improvements should come out of this. Still, it may be necessary to ensure that the report goes further up the management chain if the improvements recommended requiring authorization, which the investigating team cannot give. 


A follow-up must be made to check on the implementation of the recommendations. It is also necessary to review the effect of the recommendations to check whether they have achieved the desired result and whether they have had unforeseen ‘ knock-on ’ effects, creating additional risks and problems. 

Use of information

The accident or incident investigation should be used to generate recommendations but should also be used to generate safety awareness. Therefore, the investigation report or a summary should be circulated locally to relevant people and, when appropriate, summaries circulated throughout the organization. The accident or incident does not need to have resulted in a 3-day lost time injury for this system to be used. 


A number of people will potentially be involved in an accident or incident investigation. This will only be necessary for most of these people on very few occasions. Training guidance and help will therefore be required. Training can be provided in accident/incident investigation courses run on-site and in numerous off-site venues. Computer-based training courses are also available. These are intended to provide refresher training individually or complete training at office sites, where it may not be feasible to provide practical training. 

Conduct Interviews

After initially documenting the accident scene, the next step is to dig for additional details by conducting interviews. This activity is perhaps the most difficult part of an investigation. The accident investigation interview aims to obtain an accurate and comprehensive picture of what happened. Remember, you’re conducting an accident investigation, not a criminal investigation. The last thing to do in the interview is to come down hard (be accusatory) on an interviewee.

So let’s look at some effective techniques that will assure you get the facts. An important aspect of your job as the interviewer is constructing a composite story or “word picture” of what happened using the various accounts of the accident and other evidence.

So, let’s review some effective interviewing techniques:

  • Tell the interviewee the purpose of the interview is to get facts, not place blame.
  • Do not interview more than one person at a time. The facts change when others are listening.
  • Ask for background information. Then, simply have the witness tell you what happened. Let them talk, and you just listen.
  • Don’t ask them “if” they can explain what happened, because they may respond with a simple “no,” and that’s that.
  • Go to the scene to interview if you can. If you can’t, find an office or meeting room that the interviewee considers a “neutral” location.
  • Put the person at ease. Explain the purpose and your role. Sincerely express concern regarding the accident and desire to prevent a similar occurrence.
  • Be friendly, understanding, and open minded. Be calm and unhurried.
  • Don’t ask leading questions; don’t interrupt; and don’t make expressions (facial, verbal of approval or disapproval).
  • Ask open-ended questions and avoid closed-ended questions requiring a simple yes and no answer.
  • Avoid asking “why-you” questions as these type of questions tend to make people respond defensively.
  • Repeat the facts and sequence of events back to the person to avoid any misunderstandings.
  • Take notes. Let the individual read your notes so that they can correct inaccuracies.
  • Don’t record the interview unless you get permission.
  • If the interviewee wants to have someone witness the interview, that’s fine.
  • Ask for the interviewee’s opinion about what can be done to prevent another accident.
  • Thank the interviewee and ask them to contact you if they think of anything else that might be helpful.

Investigation form 

Headings that could be used to compile an accident/ incident investigation form are given below: 

  • date and location of accident/incident; 
  • circumstances of accident/incident; 
  • the immediate cause of accident/incident; 
  • the underlying cause of accident/incident; 
  • immediate action is taken; 
  • recommendation for further improvement; 
  • report circulation list; 
  • date of investigation; 
  • signature of investigating team leader; 
  • names of investigating team. 


  • Were the recommendations implemented? 
  • Were the recommendations effective? 

The following categories of immediate causes of the accident are used in F2508:

  1. contact with moving machinery or material being machined; 
  2. struck by moving, including flying or falling objects; 
  3. struck by a moving vehicle; 
  4. struck against something fixed or stationary; 
  5. injured while handling lifting or carrying; 
  6. slip, trip, or fall on the same level; 
  7. fall from height; indicate the approximate distance of fall in meters; 
  8. trapped by something collapsing or overturning; 
  9. drowning or asphyxiation; 
  10. exposure to or contact with harmful substances; 
  11. exposure to fire; 
  12. exposure to an explosion; 
  13. contact with electricity or an electrical discharge; 
  14. injured by an animal; 
  15. violence; 
  16. another kind of accident.

The key date for a medium level of investigation

The HSE in HSG65 has suggested that the key data included in Box 8.1 should be covered in an investigation report. This level of data is more appropriate for a medium level of investigation.

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