In November of 2023, two construction workers were going about their daily tasks. That morning, they had been directed by their site manager to carry out work on a roof terrace. Unfortunately, this direction was given before roof edge protection had been properly installed. 

In the course of the work, one of the workers accidentally stepped over the side of the roof, suffering a three-metre fall, a broken collarbone, and a fractured left hand. This workplace incident resulted in eight weeks of recovery for the employee, and a maximum fine of $300,000 was imposed on the company. However, in the end, they only had to pay half of that fine. 


They took accountability for their actions and demonstrated remedial steps towards better policies and processes with the guidance of an incident investigator. 

The lesson? 

Workplace incidents happen, and when they do, the best approach is to investigate efficiently with the help of qualified experts. Not only does the investigation smooth out any legal considerations for the company and employees, but it also lays the groundwork for a safer environment in the future.

So, what does a proper workplace incident investigation look like? 

Read on as the experts from Smart Safety Solutions discuss the process of incident investigation and its implications for your company’s future.

Understand the Type of Incident You’re Dealing With

There are a few different incident types your company might be dealing with. It’s important to understand what they are, as this can change the course of the investigation.


The core types of incidents are:


  • Near hit (which used to be called a near miss)
  • Asset damage (non-injury)
  • Injury to your workers or others
  • Critical incident (serious injury or death)

There can be different responses to the level of incident you’re dealing with. For example, in a non-injury incident, it’s unlikely that you will have to stop all operations. However, in a critical incident, everything stops. The area will have to be sealed and remain untouched until investigators can look at it and gather evidence. 


Step One: Immediate Response

As soon as an incident occurs, the immediate response is critical to ensure the safety of everyone involved. You should stop all work, including switching off relevant equipment if it is safe to do so and diverting company traffic around the area if possible. 


The point here is to assess whether anyone is injured, as this will help you decide on the level of incident that you are dealing with. If injuries are present and it’s safe to do so, the next step is to ensure the injured party receives prompt medical attention. 


Always remember that it’s not good to put yourself or others in danger in providing that help. When and where required, call emergency services to resolve the situation without endangering anyone else.


Finally, assess whether the situation can be handled internally or externally. If the incident is serious enough, it will warrant external analysis, which is another time teams like Smart Safety Solutions can jump in to assist you.


Step Two: Form an Investigation Team

Once the immediate incident has passed, it’s time to establish a dedicated investigation. A good investigation’s core is thorough and unbiased inquiry, so selecting the right members for your investigation team will make a big difference. 


The goal is to form a team of experts who can bring a variety of perspectives to the investigation. Think safety professionals, supervisors, and relevant stakeholders. If handling the incident internally, make sure your lead investigator is experienced enough to take it on. 


On the other hand, if you’re contracting a third party to handle your investigation, make sure they’re competent and qualified. The Smart Safety Solutions team are both qualified and competent having many years of experience handling investigations for companies from a variety of industries,.

Step Three: Gathering Information

Next, collecting comprehensive information is vital for understanding the circumstances surrounding the incident. Gathering information from anyone who witnessed the incident allows us to piece together the ‘how’ part of the puzzle. Eyewitness accounts are important here, as they help us build a holistic understanding of the factors that were at play in that moment.

On top of collecting witness information, our consultants will likely conduct an audit of your existing health and safety procedures to help determine where gaps in policy may have contributed to the incident occurring.

If handling your investigation internally, it is vital you thoroughly interview any relevant witnesses and gather all relevant physical evidence, documenting the scene before any alterations are made.

Step Four: Conduct Root Cause Analysis

The next step is to analyse the information and draw any root cause conclusions from this information. The root cause of an incident is its underlying trigger. Without understanding the root cause, incidents of the same or similar nature may continue to occur.

When conducting root cause analysis, we look at four different dimensions:


These are the actions the individuals involved in the incident took. Who did what? How did they do it? Did they do it according to the guidelines? What was missed? Analysing the actions taken forms the foundation of our investigation, and from there, we can delve deeper.


Our consultants assess the individuals involved and may extend this analysis to the witnesses when relevant. We look at competency, personality, attitudes toward the job and colleagues, and risk perception.


Aside from the individual workers involved in the incident, we look outward to diagnose any systemic issues. Influences from leadership, lack of resources, or poor communication can all be underlying causes. 


Finally, our consultants work with you to understand the job itself. What was the task at hand? What equipment was involved? Which controls were in place to ensure worker safety? Which procedures and processes applied to the incident, and how well were they followed?

With all of these dimensions analysed, our consultants can begin to form a full picture of the incident and recommend long-lasting, effective practices that will maximise safety in your workplace.

Step Five: Define Corrections and Report Accordingly

If you’re handling the investigation internally, this is the time to use all the hard work done in the gathering information portion to compile a comprehensive report, including the corrective actions your company can take to prevent the same incident from occurring in future.

External teams will do the same from a highly experienced point of view. As trained health and safety consultants, our role is to fully understand how an incident has occurred so that we can help you prevent similar incidents from happening in the future. Engaging in this process with us can help keep your employees safer and allow you to demonstrate accountability – which can work in your favour should an incident end up in the court system.

Our recommendations will align with the Health and Safety at Work Act of 2015. The report should compile all findings and analysis, then use them as a jumping-off point for a step-by-step action plan to resolve any issues that were found. These actions might look like:

  •       The creation of a customised safety system to reduce the chance of future injury.
  •       Scheduling regular safety audits to ensure you are continuously improving your systems.
  •       New policy creation and implementation for better evidence of due diligence.
  •       Broader hazard risk assessments to identify any further risks and hazards in the workplace.
  •       Company-wide health and safety training specific to the incident that occurred.
  •       The development of clear operating procedures for company-wide distribution.

In summary, a vital part of effectively managing workplace incidents is to reach out to the experts if an incident occurs. Taking a proactive approach and showing your willingness to take the correct steps to ensure the future safety of your employees could help minimise financial or legal consequences. 

Dealing with a workplace incident? Talk to Smart Safety Solutions.

Our trained health and safety consultants are on hand to provide a holistic incident investigation, helping you understand what happened and prevent similar incidents from occurring in the future.

Discover the best way to move forward with the team from Smart Safety Solutions. Reach out today.