Reporting Accidents

When accidents are not reported, their causes usually go uncorrected, allowing the chance for the same accident to result again. Every accident, if properly investigated, serves as a learning experience to the people involved. The investigation should avoid becoming a mechanical routine. It should strive to establish what happened, why it happened, and what must be done to prevent a recurrence. An accident investigation must be conducted to find out the facts and not to place blame.

There are sound reasons for reporting accidents, such as the following:

  • • You learn nothing from unreported accidents.
  • • Accident causes go uncorrected.
  • • Infection and injury aggravations can result.
  • • Failure to report injuries tends to spread and become an accepted practice.

The results-oriented supervisor recognizes that the real value of investigation can only be achieved when his/her workers report every problem, incident, or accident that they know of. In order to promote conscientious reporting, it may be helpful to know some of the reasons why workers fail to, or avoid, reporting accidents. There are usually reasons that workers espouse for not reporting accidents:

  • 1. Fear of discipline
  • 2. Concern about the company's record
  • 3. Concern for their reputation
  • 4. Fear of medical treatment
  • 5. Dislike of medical personnel
  • 6. Desire to keep personal record clear
  • 7. Avoidance of red tape
  • 8. Desire to prevent work interruptions
  • 9. Concern about attitudes of others
  • 10. Poor understanding of importance

How can a company combat these reporting problems?

  • 1. React in a more positive way.
  • 2. Indoctrinate workers on the importance of reporting all accidents.
  • 3. Make sure everyone knows what kinds of accidents should be reported.
  • 4. Give more attention to prevention and control.
  • 5. Recognize individual performance.
  • 6. Develop the value of reporting.
  • 7. Show disapproval of injuries neglected and not reported.
  • 8. Demonstrate belief by action.
  • 9. Do not make mountains out of molehills.

Let the worker know that the company appreciates his/her reporting promptly. Inquire about his/her knowledge of the accident. Don't interrogate or grill the person. Stress the value of knowing about problems while they are still small. Focus on accident prevention and loss control. Emphasize compliance with practices, rules, and protective equipment, and promptly commend good performance. Pay attention to the positive things workers do, and give sincere, meaningful recognition where and when it is deserved. Use compliments as often as warnings are used. Use group and personal meetings to point out and pass on knowledge gained from past accidents. Give an accident example as an important part of every job instruction. Show belief in what the company officials say by taking corrective action promptly. Something can always be done at that moment, even if permanent correction requires time to develop new methods, buy new equipment, or modify the building.

The first step in an effective investigation is the prompt reporting of accidents. A company can't respond to accidents, evaluate their potential, and investigate them if they are not reported when they happen. Prompt reporting is the key to effective accident investigations. Hiding small accidents doesn't help prevent the serious accidents that kill people, put the company out of business, and take away jobs. If workers don't report accidents to the supervisor, they are stealing part of the supervisor's authority to manage his/her job.

Line supervisors should be involved in accident investigations, basically, because they are normally the people in direct contact with the worker, and understand their problems, personalities, and capabilities. Involving supervisors increases their responsibilities toward the accident prevention effort. Supervisors are normally responsible for training, so becoming involved in investigations will make them more aware of what causes accidents as well as ways to prevent a recurrence. There are benefits from having a line supervisor involved in accident investigations.

Accident investigation should be preplanned by developing a formalized investigative process. It should encompass the tools needed to conduct the investigation, the procedural steps should be planned out, and a written record should be developed and maintained that answers the questions who, what, when, where, how, with what, why, with whom, and how much. The process should be documented using photographs and visuals. All these items are best accomplished using an investigative team approach. This team will also conduct and document all interviews. The team is to be charged with collecting and securing all evidence that will be used to develop the final report of the team.

 
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