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June 6, 2019

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Incident investigation

Give PEACE a Chance! Beyond the obvious in incident investigation

Ahead of a joint NEBOSH-HSE interactive session on incident investigation at this year’s Safety & Health Expo, Matthew Powell-Howard, NEBOSH Head of Strategy, considers how organisations can get the most out of their investigations – and where they sometimes go off-script.

“Every health and safety professional knows that learning the lessons from incidents – whether or not they’ve resulted in someone being harmed – is one of the best ways of preventing further incidents. In order to learn those lessons, you need to find out what happened and why. But, somehow, translating this into thorough, effective incident investigations isn’t as straightforward as it might sound.

“An incident of whatever type – accident, dangerous occurrence or near-miss – is a chance to learn; it’s one of the best opportunities an organisation will have to review and improve risk controls. An incident can tell you how things are being done, as opposed to how you think they’re being done, and an effective investigation will uncover any weaknesses in your systems.

“Carrying out investigations is a necessity if employers are to meet their responsibilities under the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations to monitor and review their preventive and protective measures. And yet there has long been a suspicion that many organisations are not investigating effectively: perhaps because the process has become about ticking a box rather than gaining insight, or maybe because the person charged with investigating lacks the knowledge or confidence to perform the task well.”

Beyond the obvious

blame“An inadequate investigation will rarely get beyond the obvious – “XYZ happened because the individual wasn’t following the correct procedure” – and will frequently attribute blame, often citing that convenient catch-all: “human error”. All too often, incident investigations result in reports that offer a shallow examination of the immediate circumstances, rather than a careful exploration of all the factors.

“What these investigations miss are the crucial underlying and root causes. For example, a thorough investigation – involving interviews with the key people involved – might reveal that an individual didn’t follow procedure because production targets put them under time pressure, meaning they had to deviate from the prescribed method of work to get the job done. Rushing to blame an individual rather than considering the wider processes and procedures increases the likelihood of a similar incident happening again.

“At NEBOSH we’ve long been keen to meet the demand for practical training by developing a specific qualification, and in April we launched the NEBOSH HSE Introduction to Incident Investigation: a one-day, entry-level qualification designed to give candidates the knowledge and confidence to investigate minor incidents unaided. The response since we launched the qualification has been fantastic, with unprecedented interest from training providers.

“One of the key elements of this qualification – and of sound investigation strategies – is the P.E.A.C.E model. At Safety & Health Expo I’ll be joined by Ed Corbett, HSE Head of Human Factors & Organisational Performance – to explore this model in greater detail.

“Audience questions are actively encouraged and we want everyone to walk away inspired with ideas to improve incident investigation in their own organisations.”

‘Give PEACE a Chance!’ will take place at 4.20pm on 19 June in the Leadership Forum at Safety & Health Expo. Click on the link below to secure your free ticket.


NEBOSH to showcase new Incident Investigation Qualification at Safety and Health Expo.

The exhibition will see the launch of the ‘NEBOSH HSE Introduction to Incident Investigation’. The one-day course covers the moral, legal and financial reasons for carrying out effective incident investigations. The qualification includes an innovative end-of-course assessment in which learners are asked to analyse a case study film and identify poor and good practices in interviewing techniques.

“At NEBOSH, we’ve wanted to produce a course on incident investigation for some time, and working with the HSE gave us the opportunity to develop this qualification,” says Matthew Powell-Howard, NEBOSH Qualification Development Manager. “The underlying and root causes of incidents are very rarely explored fully. This qualification will help learners understand what a robust approach to incident investigation looks like, which will help improve the health and safety culture within their organisations.”

Find out more about both qualifications at the show by visiting NEBOSH on stand SH1844 or HSE on stand SH1260.

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Nigel Evelyn-Dupree
Nigel Evelyn-Dupree

BEYOND THE OBVIOUS ! What about the obvious ? Still not acknowledging that the reasonably foreseeable and, in fact, “predictable” visual repetitive stress injuries in 58% plus of DSE operators debilitating monocular 2D visual stress related adaptations do no harm and are only temporary – not so, when is this “beyond the obvious” get around to addressing the obvious presenteeism as DSE operators, let alone the diverse and excluded, at a 4 to 7 fold increased risk of visual disruption under the WHO heading of asthenopic and myopic disease get included ?