Investigating Accidents in the Work Place

Workplace accidents are any unplanned work-related events that result in personal injury or in property damage.  It is vital to determine the causes of workplace accidents, in order to prevent further re-occurrences   Most accidents in the workplace are caused by the failure of people, equipment, supplies, or surroundings to behave or react as intended.

A thorough accident investigation will help determine how and why the workplace accident occurred.  Ideally, work place accident investigations are conducted with accident prevention in mind, not necessarily to assign blame.

Usually, workplace accidents occur because of basic, indirect, and direct causes. 


Investigating work place accidents

Tips for Discovering the Facts Surrounding Workplace Accidents:

  • Interview witnesses as soon as possible after the accident in the workplace.
  • Inspect the accident site before changes occur.
  • Take photographs and make sketches of the work place accident site.
  • Record all relevant data.
  • Make copies of all workplace accident reports. (OSHA Form 301)
  • Compare notes with existing documents that contain normal operating procedures, flow charts, maintenance logs, and any reports of difficulties or abnormalities.
  • Keep thorough and accurate notes in a bound notebook so nothing is lost.
  • Record pre-accident conditions, the sequence of incident and events, and the post-accident conditions.
  • Document the location of victims, witnesses, machinery, energy sources, and hazardous materials.

Tips for Accident Investigation Interviews:

  • Obtain preliminary statements as quickly as possible from all witnesses.
  • Locate the location of each witness at the time of the accident on a diagram (include the direction of view).
  • Explain the purpose of the investigation to each witness to put them at ease. (The purpose should always be to prevent future similar accidents, NOT to assign blame.)
  • Let each witness speak freely and take notes without being a distraction to them.  Only record their testimony if they've given their consent.
  • When speaking to each witness, refer to the diagram and sketches to help them clearly explain what happened.
  • Detailed notes of their testimony should include whether they are making direct observations, or merely repeating here-say.
  • Record exact quotes by the witness to describe their observations.
  • Make sure questions for the witness are worded clearly and carefully. 
  • Make note of the facts about the witness:  name, address, occupation, years of experience, etc.
  • Have witnesses sign their statements.
  • Supply each witness a copy of their statements.


After the Investigation is Complete:

A workplace accident investigation is incomplete until a final, comprehensive accident report is prepared and submitted to proper authorities.  Again, the purpose of a work place accident investigation is not to cast blame, but to prevent future similar accidents from occurring.  Attached is a Free, Reproducible WORKPLACE ACCIDENT INVESTIGATION SUMMARY FORM to help employers.

Additional information