Unfortunately, there’s no way to completely erase the possibility of accidents and injuries taking place at your workplace. In addition to taking sufficient preventative measures, the most important step that you can take to reduce the impact of an incident and its resulting workers’ compensation claims is knowing how to promptly perform a thorough incident analysis to understand what caused the incident, how severe its impacts are, and where to go in the future. When we say prompt, we mean prompt: the majority of jurisdictions only give the employer and insurer a 21-day window to accept or deny a claim, and it’s important to have as many of the facts straight as possible before making that decision. Once an incident occurs, everyone should be ready to initiate the process as soon as possible.
There are a number of ways that you can perform a root cause analysis, but OSHA advises that you always seek to answer these four questions in this order during the investigation:
- What happened?
- How did it happen?
- Why did it happen?
- What needs to be corrected?
Finding the cause of an incident isn’t just about the physical cause of the accident during that moment in time. A human error, a malfunctioning piece of equipment, a poorly-designed room, or bad luck could could easily cause one random accident, but correcting that error alone will only prevent that specific incident from occurring. In order to truly reduce the risk of on-the-job injuries and accidents at your workplace, you need to look at the root cause, or the systematic processes that made the event possible. When was the last time you reminded your employees about proper safety procedure? Is the work area not regularly inspected? Are your employees engaged enough to stay safe on the job?
The first step to take once an accident has occurred is securing the incident site and reporting the claim. Once that’s been taken care of, then you need to gather as much information about the incident as possible. These are some guidelines to carrying out an effective investigation:
- Make sure that everyone is aware of their role in an incident analysis. Make sure that your employees know that you are looking for them to help out and provide any information they have, and specify who will be in charge of leading the investigation and filling out and filing the form. Forming a safety committee for this purpose could be beneficial.
- Emphasize to your employees that you are not looking to place blame. If your employees are concerned that they could get in trouble as a result of the incident, it is likely that they will withhold information. You should not reward bad behavior, but you should stress that the main purpose of this investigation is to learn the truth and apply it to the future.
- Try to paint a complete picture of the incident. Look at surveillance footage if you have any, use all available logs (such as time logs or equipment logs), take photographs of the incident, get testimonies from eyewitnesses, and talk to employees who were not at the scene to fully complete the scene.
- When reporting the incident, organize everything in chronological order and provide all necessary documentation. This will make it easier to read and understand, and should the claim result in a lawsuit, it will be beneficial.
- Don’t consider the process finished once you’ve completed your analysis; in fact, it is only the beginning. Keep a copy of the report for yourself and use it to adjust your business’s safety procedures to prevent future events.
About Caitlin Morgan
Caitlin Morgan specializes in providing Workers’ Compensation insurance to residential care facilities, including offering a program designed for members of the Indiana Health Care Association (IHCA), HOPE, and Leading Age Indiana associations. We can assist you in reviewing an existing Workers’ Compensation plan, securing coverage, boosting safety plans and implementing RTW programs for your nursing home clients. Please contact us at 317.575.4440.