Accident investigation is a regulatory requirement under OSHA 1910.119(m). Such an investigation requires careful analysis of evidence to arrive at probable cause(s) of the event and develop appropriate safeguards to prevent its recurrence. Ideally, investigators would have ample time to analyze all evidence. In reality, plant personnel (and management) almost always feel tacit pressure to resume operations as soon as practicable. Although this pressure is understandable from a business economics view, hastily performed accident investigations could fail to catch the real culprit, the probable cause(s) of the accident. Critical evidence inadvertently could get destroyed, leading the investigators to rely on invalid assumptions. The same accident could recur again and again.
To get a plant up and running as soon as practicable while performing an effective investigation depends upon analyzing the accident and developing safeguards carefully and efficiently. Safety professionals, plant engineers, operators, maintenance professionals and management play a vital collective role in developing a framework for efficient accident investigations.
At the strategic level, engineering and administrative controls as well as safety culture jointly contribute to an efficient and reliable accident investigation. The key to ensuring efficient accident investigation is preparedness, i.e., having systems in place to deal with accidents.