“Timely” Incident Investigation

| November 18, 2009

Section of OHSAS 18001 requires that OH&S incident investigations “be performed in a timely manner”.

So – What is Timely?

Neither OHSAS 18002 nor the dictionary (my primary sources for interpreting the OHSAS 18001 requirements) provides much help. 

OHSAS 18002 does not explicitly discuss this particular requirement of the OHSAS 18001 standard.

The dictionary isn’t particularly helpful either. It defines timely as – “well-timed, in time, occurring at a suitable time, opportunely“. The legal dictionary definition is “falling within a prescribed or reasonable time.”

As a practical matter, there are several components to a “timely” incident investigation –

  •  “The CSI Factor” – As in the TV show CSI, you will want to do your immediate investigation of an incident (who, what, when and where) while the facts are fresh – before memories fade and “the evidence” disappears.
  • Dealing with Imminent Risks – Hazards that are imminent risks (e.g. defective ladders, broken guards on operating equipment) need to be addressed immediately.
  • Preventing Future Injuries – Since the primary purpose of incident investigation is prevention of injuries, the root causes of an incident (why and how) need to be determined and addressed before another similar incident occurs.

An investigation does not need to be completed all at once in order to be timely.

An incident investigation is often done in two stages:

  1. Initial information collection – preserving the evidence
  2. Root cause analysis – determining what the evidence means

The initial of collection of information about the incident usually needs to be done quickly. The root cause analysis typically takes more time.

So what do you think? Let me know by completing the survey below or posting a comment.


© ENLAR® Compliance Services, Inc. (2009)

Category: OHSMS Implementation

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