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The Importance of a Thorough Accident Investigation

November 13, 2017 Marissa Saucedo

car accident

Each one of us has been involved in an accident. Maybe something happened on the road or at work. Maybe it was a “near-miss,” or perhaps it caused an injury like a minor burn or scrape, or worse and required a visit to the emergency room. How often do we take the time to retrace the events that led up to an accident? Do we try to learn from the close calls? Chances are the more minor an accident is, the less we think about it. Nevertheless, finding out what went wrong, whether an accident is minor or major, is the key to prevention.

Accidents can happen anytime and anywhere. Consider for a moment the high-risk environments you pass through daily:

  • Roadways & automobiles
  • Kitchens & cafeterias
  • Science labs & class rooms
  • Shop areas & playgrounds
  • Storage closets & utility rooms

Virtually any place poses some level of risk for an accident, even a “low-risk” office environment. This is why it is important to have standard operating procedures, guidelines, and training to recognize and minimize hazards and risks to protect your assets.

An accident by definition is an unplanned, undesired event that results in harm or damage to property. One improper decision can start a domino effect of decisions that create hazardous circumstances.

  • Understanding the events that led up to an accident can help to determine the cause. Each accident should be treated as a learning opportunity.
  • Once the proximate cause of the accident is determined, corrective actions can be taken to prevent the same or similar losses from occurring again. 
  • Discovering patterns in accidents may help determine if procedures need to be altered to keep people and property safe.
  • Sharing information and discoveries helps to prevent future accidents and can reduce risks for others.

Accident investigation is not about assigning blame. If people feel they are being attacked during an accident investigation, it may lead to false accident recounts, delayed accident reports, and perhaps even cover-ups. If this happens, the opportunity to learn from the accident will be lost.

Accidents represent a failure. That failure could have risen out of human error, environmental conditions, a misuse of machinery, or equipment breakdown. A superficial accident investigation may lead to a quick remedy, but it is important to bring to light the deeper root cause. A thorough investigation may reveal problematic policies, insufficient training, or a flaw in processes and procedures. Knowing how an accident happened is not enough; it is important to answer why an accident happened and recognize the different levels at which it could have been prevented. From there, work can begin to control or eliminate the hazard and reduce the potential for future losses.

Lack of time, knowledge, and desire are all roadblocks to completing a good accident investigation. Combat these issues by dedicating the time and training it takes to learn how to properly investigate a loss and identify the proximate cause. Create a safety culture that others can trust and that encourages compliance. Also, investigate an incident just like an accident. An incident is considered an event that does not result in harm to a person or property, but it still presents the same learning opportunity. 

The Vehicle Collision Investigation Course involves accident investigation training for automobile and bus losses while the Loss Prevention Coordinator Course offers accident investigation training for on-the-job injuries and property losses. Accidents are inconvenient and costly; taking a proactive approach with accident investigations will help mitigate damages and prevent future losses.

For more information on Loss Prevention training, contact Risk Solutions at 800.482.7276, ext. 2853. You may also contact your Risk Solutions Consultant to answer any of your questions.

Editor's note: This article was originally published in March 2012 and has been updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.

Tagged: Auto, "driving safety"