VIII. Accident Investigations

Loggers who are not carefully investigating accidents or "close calls" on their logging operation may be spending money needlessly on higher insurance and lost production. Accident investigations should obtain timely information on how an accident or "close call" occurred, which may contribute to developing a plan to prevent a similar injury or loss from occurring again. Accident investigations should result in solutions and not blame. There may be many causes for an accident. Immediately assigning blame to an individual may result in important information being withheld in order to protect the worker's interests — or the worker's job.

It should be stressed that such investigations are appropriate only if undertaken by or under the complete authority of the independent logging business owner. Involvement of wood consuming company personnel in logging contractor accident investigations might invite inappropriate inferences about the independence of the business relationship. Use the procedure described below when conducting an accident investigation.

  1. Gather the facts.
    When an accident occurs gather the facts immediately!
    a. Interview the employee(s) and others in the area as soon as possible.
    b. Survey the area to see if there are any signs of what happened or any clues which may aid in your investigation.
    c. Record pertinent information, such as the names and addresses of witnesses, weather conditions, gauge readings on equipment, and other information which will help you in your investigations.
    d. Preserve evidence.
    e. Take notes.
  2. Objectively analyze the facts.
    After all the facts have been gathered, analyze them to put together the list of events which led to the accident or "close call." Analyze the information and determine if there are additional questions which need to be answered.
  3. Develop conclusions.
    Based on the facts, develop conclusions about how, what, and why an accident occurred. Formulate the events which led to the accident.
  4. Recommend corrective actions and correct the situation.
    Making recommendations to correct deficiencies is the most critical part of any accident investigations process. Develop an action plan which lists the deficiency and the recommendation, and assign responsibility to correct the problem.
  5. Follow up on recommendations to evaluate effectiveness.
    Follow up on recommendations to be sure the deficiency has been corrected. Evaluate the effectiveness of the correction. Some adjustment may need to be made after a recommendation has been implemented.

This process can be quick and simple for a minor accident or "close call" and more involved for a serious one. In either case following these five steps for conducting an accident investigation will cost less in both time and money than will a reoccurrence of the incident. FRA's publication Woodlands Safety: Learning from Close Calls (96-A-5), presents detailed information on using accident or "close call" investigations as learning opportunities. Contact FRA's National Office at 301/838-9385, or see http://loggingsafety.com/content/general-or-miscellaneous-safety