Write the Accident Report
Now that you have accurately assessed and analyzed the facts related to the accident and developed effective corrective actions and system improvements, you must report your findings to those who have the authority to take action.
The Accident Report Form
One of the most common reasons an accident investigation might fail to fulfill its intended purpose of helping to eliminate similar accidents is that the report form is poorly designed. They actually make it difficult to get beyond the identification of only surface causes: root causes are often ignored. Consequently, system improvements are not recommended.
Let’s take a look at one format that is designed to emphasize root cause analysis. Take a look at a sample accident report. This is a report format similar to that used by OSHA accident investigators in conducting workplace accident investigations, but it goes further. This form includes the identification of safety management system weaknesses and recommended improvements. You may want to print this form while we discuss the various sections.
Section I. Background
This section contains background information that answers questions about who the victim is, and the time, date, location of the accident, as well as other necessary details. Make sure you obtain all of this information for possible later reference.
Section II. Description of the Accident
This section presents a descriptive narrative of the events leading up to, including, and immediately after the accident. It’s important that the narrative paints a vivid “word picture” so that someone unfamiliar with the accident can clearly see what happened.
Section III. Findings
The findings section describes the hazardous conditions, unsafe behaviors, and the system weaknesses your analysis has uncovered. Each description of a surface or root cause will also include justification for the finding. The justification will explain how you came to your conclusion.
Unfortunately, the most common failure found in accident reports is they address only surface causes. Consequently, similar accidents recur. These report forms may have a format that “forces” the investigator to list only surface causes for accidents. The form does not “report” the system weaknesses associated with each surface cause. Consequently, the investigator believes the job is done without ferreting out the system weaknesses representing the root causes.
Other forms may actually require the investigator to indicate the status of employee negligence. Now, how can the accident investigator assure an interviewee or any other employee that the purpose of the analysis process is to “fix the system — not the blame,” when the report form shouts “negligent”?
To complete this section, just state the facts: Hazardous conditions, unsafe behaviors, practices, and inadequate or missing programs, policies, plans, processes, and procedures that produced them. Be sure to write complete descriptive sentences. Not short cryptic phrases.
Take a look at this sample Section III: Findings and Justifications.
Section IV. Recommendations
If root causes are not addressed properly in Section III of the report, it is doubtful recommendations in this section will include improving system inadequacies. Effective recommendations will describe ways to eliminate or reduce both surface and root causes. They will also detail estimated costs involved with implementing corrective actions. Let’s take a closer look at effective recommendation writing. Review this sample Section IV. Recommendations.
Section V. Summary
This section contains a brief review of the causes of the accident and recommendations for corrective actions. In your review, it’s important to include language that contrasts the costs of the accident with the benefits derived from investing in corrective actions. Including bottom-line information will ensure that your recommendation will be understood and appreciated by management. Remember, it’s never appropriate for the accident investigator to recommend disciplinary action. Disciplinary action should be considered only by managers and only after very careful consideration of all of the facts. By the way, if system weaknesses that contributed to the accident are identified, discipline is likely unnecessary.
Open document: The accident investigation report should be considered an open document until all recommendations have been addressed.
Accident Investigation Quiz
- Basic Definitions Used In Accident Investigation
- The Reasons & Benefits Of Investigating the Accidents/Incidents
- Which Incidents/Accidents Should Be Investigated?
- Types Of Accidents That Are Most Common
- Elements Of An Effective Accident Investigation Program
- Best Practices For Securing And Documenting An Accident Scene
- Three Primary Phases Of Accident Investigation Cause Analysis