As a supervisor or manager, the ability to investigate workplace incidents is an important component of your job. If you answer the following questions and take action to improve where you may have deficits, you will better manage the accidents and injuries in your workplace.
First, do you hear about the incidents that occur in your workplace or are you so far removed from the day-to-day details that you only hear about incidents long after they have occurred? If so, you may need to practice more “management by walking around” until line supervisors and employees feel comfortable talking with you again. You may have fallen out of the communication loop, a place you never want to be.
Next, do you take charge of the accident scene immediately post injury and protect property that may have contributed to the incident? These items may help in subrogation, the process your insurance company uses to collect from at-fault parties whose products or employees have injured your employees or damaged your equipment.
Do you obtain a detailed report of the incident from your employee as quickly as possible post injury? Of course if your employee is seriously injured, you shouldn’t push for a statement. Most employees will cooperate with your investigation when they feel able. When they refuse, it may be a red flag that something is amiss.
Do you interview each witness to the incident? On serious accidents even if employees saw nothing, you may want to obtain what claims adjusters call a “negative statement.” This confirms they did not see anything to avoid them coming forward with a late-reported version of events.
How are your interviewing skills? Do you ask open-ended questions like “Then what did you see?” which allows the employee to provide details, avoiding questions that can be answered by a “yes” or “no.” Do you intimidate employees with your investigative style? If so, take some lessons from skilled interviewers or delegate the investigation to someone who has a more laid-back style.
We all hate paperwork, but insurance companies thrive on it. Do you fill out accident reports, including a first report of injury, clearly and legibly? The more quickly your insurance company can verify the information you provide the more quickly they can handle the claim. When an adjuster must call to find information before proceeding, the delay can increase the claim costs to your organization.
Are you comfortable making simple diagrams and using a digital camera to document the incident? If not, find someone who is, because photos and diagrams speak volumes, especially in litigation.
How are your post-mortem skills? Do you use the incident as a teaching tool to help ensure other employees don’t make the same mistakes? Of course, you should not point fingers or assign blame to coworkers, but you should brief employees about necessary corrective actions they can take to avoid similar incidents.
Do you ensure, after an incident, that appropriate corrective action has occurred? Or do you simply assume that the supervisor or manager in that area will appropriately solve the problem? Accountability is central to a strong operation and when incidents occur, those in charge should explain why the incident occurred and how they will prevent similar occurrences.