Accidents are unplanned and unexpected events that cause injury, property damage, and/or financial loss in the workplace. Incidents, or “near misses”, don’t result in loss or a claim report, but are just as important to investigate. Conducting a thorough investigation that identifies root causes of both accidents and near misses will help you prevent similar events from happening again.

Tips for conducting your investigation

The most critical part of your investigation is the root cause analysis. Through this process, you can uncover contributing factors and find the true cause of the accident/incident. There are many methods of root cause analysis to choose from; no matter the method, be sure to answer these important questions: 

  • What happened? 
  • How did it happen? 
  • Why did it happen? 
  • What needs to be corrected?

Use our Root Cause Analysis form to take you through this process.

Keep the investigation focused on fact-finding and avoid placing blame. This approach identifies the true attitudes, behaviors, and other factors that led to the problem. Accident/Incident investigation should not be used to blame, punish, or exonerate workers and managers. Facts will not emerge in this environment. If you investigate an accident/incident just to complete paperwork and satisfy insurance requirements, you will erode the trust of your employees and jeopardize your goal of accident prevention and loss reduction.

A supervisor in the affected area is the best person to conduct an investigation because they are most familiar with the tools, equipment, and people involved. Experts in equipment, outside agencies, and other technical resources may also be needed.

Six steps to a thorough investigation

Always report workplace injury accidents to your insurer right away, and then immediately begin your investigation. Report any serious injuries to Cal/OSHA within 8 hours of your knowledge of the injury. For more information on this requirement, see Cal/OSHA regulation §342 and for the definition of serious injury see regulation §330.

Arrange prompt medical treatment for anyone injured as quickly as possible and then:

  1. Secure the scene, placing equipment out of service if necessary, and take photos.
  2. Review our investigation overview for tips on contributing factors to consider, interviewing witnesses, assessing physical conditions, and more. You can record your findings on State Fund’s Accident/Near-Miss Event Investigation Report. This form is for your records. Use it as a checklist for your investigation and a place to record your findings. It does not replace the Employers First Report of Occupational Injury or Disease (DWC-1) claim report.
  3. Interview victims and witnesses.
  4. Collect evidence and records, and document your observations on the form.
  5. Find the contributing factors to determine the root cause of the accident/incident.
  6. Document the recommended corrective actions, the people assigned to complete them, and a due date for completion.

Once your investigation is complete, print the report for your records and implement corrective actions right away.

Be sure to take action on your findings. Most often, these investigations uncover a flaw in a work process, a previously unknown hazard, or the need for additional training. Conducting an accident/near-miss investigation will help you know what to do, change, or fix to prevent them from happening again.