Can you imagine a society where tragedies happen and people get hurt, but nothing is done to make it better? We would be living without seatbelts in our cars, no smoke detectors in our homes and no safety procedures or personal protective equipment in the workplace.

Luckily, our society usually responds to misfortune and evolves to prevent it from recurring. Think about all the safety features in hotels and office buildings or building codes in areas prone to hurricanes. Bad things happen, but we learn from them and make improvements for the future.

This same logic should be applied to commercial businesses. No matter how small an incident may be, even if it is a near-miss or close call, it’s important to conduct a formal investigation to identify and implement corrective action. Whether it’s an injured employee, damaged property or another misfortune, the focus should be to look beyond what happened and to determine why it happened.

Here are some important things to keep in mind:

  • Document incident investigations.
  • Discover the root causes that contributed to an incident, then implement corrective action.
  • Carelessness or failure to follow a procedure is often not the root cause for an incident.
  • Look beyond the immediate causes of an incident and examine whether underlying systemic issues, such as deadline pressure or poor training, may have contributed.
  • Failures of management systems often contribute to direct or indirect causes of incidents.

The Five Ws

One of the simplest ways to investigate an incident is to follow the Five Ws methodology:

  • Who  Who was injured? Who installed the equipment? Who supervised the person?
  • What  What was the person doing right before the incident? What happened? What is the source of the water on the floor?
  • When  When was the equipment last inspected? When did the incident occur?
  • Where  Where was the person standing? Where did the incident occur?
  • Why  Why was the guard removed from the machine? Why was the person not properly trained? Why were production pressures allowed to jeopardize safety?

The Auto-Owners Loss Control department can assist you in learning more about conducting effective incident investigations, providing sample programs and forms and creating a safer future for your business.Call 855-586-5388 or email