How Did That Happen?

Aug 2014 21 | Posted by naomi.whatley

“There has been an accident!” These are words every supervisor dreads to hear.   However, it is important topic that should be given some thought.  It is critical to have an Accident Investigation Policy and process in place.  In the event that an accident occurs, there is a known process to follow.

What is an accident investigation?  It is a fact finding not a fault finding process.  It is not about who is at fault, but what happened and how can future occurrences be prevented?  Accident Investigations should be completed by staff that have been trained on conducting these investigations, and should be conducted for accidents, as well as near misses.  

An accident investigation process identifies the causes of an accident or near miss and develops a corrective action plan to prevent future reoccurrence.  Accident investigations are also a required element in your Injury and Illness Prevention Program (IIPP), required by Cal OSHA under California Code of Regulations Title 8 Section 3203.

Accident investigations should address the following questions:

  • What happened? – The investigation should describe the events that lead to the investigation.  For example was an employee injured, near miss, etc.
  • Why did the incident happen? – The investigation should gather the facts surrounding the incident.  For example who was involved, where was the involved employee, what was the employee doing at the time of the accident, has the employee received applicable training, etc.
  • What should be done? – The investigation should identify corrective action that should be taken to eliminate the exposures and to prevent future re-occurrences.  For instance are policy changes required, changes in processes, additional training, etc.
  • What action has been taken? – Documentation of the actions that have been taken to eliminate the exposures. 

Once the accident investigation has been completed and corrective action has been implemented, all staff should be trained on the changes that have been implemented to ensure compliance.  A monitoring element should be implemented as part of the process to evaluate the effectiveness of the corrective action.  If the corrective action does not achieve the desired results, additional action may be required.

Golden State Risk Management Authority has the following resources available to assist with the development of an accident investigation process:

  • MemberLink online training program - Incident Investigation – This course provides information regarding techniques for conducting investigations, as well as information regarding the documentation of the process and outcomes. 
  • On-site training and assistance.
  • Sample Accident Investigation Policy.
  • Sample Accident Investigation Forms.

If you would like additional information on the accident investigation resources mentioned above, or if you have other questions about accident investigations, please feel free to contact us at or (530) 934-5633.