"Many workplace accident investigations miss critical information," says Alain Langlais, WSPS Director, Eastern Region. Even experienced investigators can be fazed by the chaos and pressure of an accident scene. "It's easy to flounder and lose track of priorities. But if you don't get it right, you lose evidence and you may never find out what happened."
Practice getting it right during a highly participative mock accident investigation. It's part of WSPS’ new half-day workshop, The Effective Investigator.
A new approach
"A whole different animal in terms of delivery, the workshop features a staged accident that's as close to real life as possible. Theory alone may not prepare you for the confusion that can ensue during a real-life accident," says Alain.
Participants receive basic information, scripts and roles to play, such as lead investigator, police officer, witness, machine operator, and more. They then work together to gather evidence, interview witnesses and find root causes.
"It's fast-paced, and people are on their feet. They're involved, moving around, thinking, and touching and feeling things," says Alain.
At the scene
Investigators arriving at real-life accident scene may be faced with an injured worker, traumatized witnesses, firefighters, a Ministry of Labour investigator, and queries from management. "It's easy to lose sight of the steps that need to be taken to get the internal investigation underway," explains Alain.
The workshop replicates these conditions. Participants - usually a mix of joint health and safety committee members, supervisors, and managers - may feel overwhelmed at first by the number of things to consider, the different things going on, and even the way that people play their roles, says Alain. But this is part of the learning process.
After 10 to 20 minutes at the staged accident scene, participants sit down for a debrief. Instructors review what went well, and what didn't, and "then discuss together what could have been done to make it more effective. "The critical issue is to take control and secure the scene so you can pick your priorities," advises Alain.
Choosing the best witnesses to interview is not always easy, says Alain. Workshop participants get to choose four. "If they don't pick the right four, they’re not going to get the information they need to find the causes."
Coming up with the right questions is also a challenge. "Each participant gets a chance to take witness statements based on the questions they build."
A second debrief provides another essential learning opportunity on who to interview after a real life accident and what to ask.
To help in the search for causes, "we introduce actual evidence - photos, documents, etc. - that we've prepared in advance," says Alain.
The group weighs this evidence and the witness statements, and tries to determine as many of the causes as they can. "Many groups get close," he says, "but nobody gets them all."
That's okay, because the workshop is not a competition. It's an opportunity for investigators to explore new possibilities and interpretations, and hone their skills in a safe environment.
"All leave with high degree of confidence that they can do all the key things necessary to determine what caused the accident, assemble a proper report, and put controls in place," concludes Alain.
Sign up now!
The Effective Investigator: A Practical Case Study (1/2 day). On-site or classroom. Find 2017 classroom dates here.
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