‘No accidents here, mate’

Accident reporting and investigation is often seen by employers as something that gets in the way of their core business. Worse still, many employers consider that even acknowledging accidents is self-incriminating – and only a very small percentage actually undertakes either activity properly. With the current weather contributing to the hazards in and around the workplace, it’s unrealistic to expect a ‘no accident’ environment.

Here are some typical myths:

  • ‘No news is good news.’ An empty accident book doesn’t mean there haven’t been any; it means that people are not reporting them. Any operation with human beings involved – and particularly where human beings and machinery are involved – will have accidents.
  • ‘We’ve had some near misses, but no accidents.’ A near miss is also a near hit; if there has been a situation where an accident was narrowly averted, it needs investigating.
  • ‘Nobody got hurt,’ – this time; but if something happened that shouldn’t, then it needs looking into.
  • ‘The Accident Book is only for reporting acute injuries – like broken bones, cuts and bruises.’ Wrong! An accident book is for any incident that is unplanned and has potential danger or injury attached. This can include chronic injuries like back pain and other musculoskeletal conditions resulting from long term activities or poor seating and also include those ‘near misses’ that qualify as unplanned incidents. Perhaps it ought to be entitled an ‘Incident Book’, but it definitely isn’t just an ‘Injury Book’.
  • Any unplanned incident needs investigation – even if nobody was hurt. A proper accident investigation keeps asking ‘why’ until the actual root cause is discovered.

    Inevitably, the fault almost always rests with the management – hence the worry about self-incrimination – but ignoring the issue only means that it is likely to happen again, potentially with a far worse outcome. Even if it’s the result of people horsing around – if it’s happened before, the management is responsible – allowing this to take place, turning a blind eye, or saying ‘now, now, lads, take it easy’ isn’t enough to avoid a civil claim and/or a prosecution in serious cases.

    Even if nobody was hurt this time, what happens if a serious injury or a fatality does occur? Proper investigation will establish what actually happened and enable action to be taken to prevent the same thing happening again. It can also turn adversity to advantage by increasing efficiency and effectiveness – so better results in less time with fewer people – and, consequently more profit!