Accident Investigation in Warehouses
Warehouses can be risky workplaces if safety isn’t managed effectively. On any given day, several minor safety incidents may happen with varying degrees of outcomes – an employee might slip while fulfilling an order, a forklift might bump into an aisle, a truck may reverse around people without effective clearances.
Some of these incidents could present with fatal risks or others could have negligible effects such that people may normalize the risks. In fact, they might share the same root cause and the only way you can find out is by carrying out a proper warehouse accident investigation.
What Is an Accident Investigation?
An accident investigation is a process that involves analyzing what caused a workplace accident – or incident, as Worksafe prefers to call it. While workplace safety is almost wholly focused on prevention, accident investigations are more interested in understanding the root cause of the accident.
You see, accidents aren’t random events but symptoms of an underlying problem. What was a close call today can easily become a fatal accident tomorrow if you don’t understand what caused the incident and upgrade your safety measures accordingly.
By investigating all near misses, you’ll get all the information you need to tweak your safety procedures and reduce accidents to a minimum.
Benefits of Investigating Warehouse Accidents
Accident investigation in warehouses will help you spot holes in your safety procedures that would otherwise go undetected. Besides preventing further accidents, accident investigations can help you:
Decrease Compensation Claims
Having fewer workplace accidents in your warehouse means you’ll spend less money covering your injured workers’ medical expenses and your company’s legal fees.
Not only will investigators help you ensure the same accident doesn’t happen again, but their methodical handling of a case – which can include photographing the scene and interviewing witnesses – will help you identify fraudulent claims.
Increase Warehouse Efficiency
Safety and productivity go hand in hand. That’s why warehouses that take safety seriously and investigate every incident experience less downtime than those that don’t. After all, keeping accidents to a minimum makes for a healthier, more motivated workforce.
Boost Employee Morale
When workers know they are in a safe, well-managed environment, their workplace satisfaction skyrockets. Happy employees feel personally involved in your business, and that’s why they’re less likely to take days off or seek another job.
Lower Your Workers’ Compensation Premiums
The golden rule of insurance underwriting is that the greater the risk you’re trying to insure, the higher your premiums will be. So by using accident investigations to reduce their frequency you can reduce the price of your premiums, increase your profit margin, and protect your bottom line.
Type of Accidents in Warehouses
Warehouse accidents can cause injuries, property damage, and even death. Some of the most commons ones you want to watch out for are:
Slips and falls
Warehouse floors are filled with unseen dangers. A puddle of forklift oil or water, a box tie, or wires on the floor are all health hazards for pedestrians and represent the biggest cause of non-fatal injuries in warehouses.
Manual handling injuries
Although warehouse workers often have to lift heavy things, they sometimes lack the training to know how to do it safely. Employees who improperly lift heavy objects can suffer sprains, strains, and end up developing more serious chronic diseases or musculoskeletal disorders if the root of the problem isn’t corrected.
Whether it’s a forklift, pallet truck, or order picker, accidents involving warehouse machines are incredibly dangerous.
Pedestrians involved in machine-related accidents have a high chance of suffering dislocation, fractures, amputations, and even amputations. Plant-related accidents may potentially result in death, particularly when the workers involved get caught between or underneath a piece of reversing plant.
Not every hazard comes from the ground. Indeed, warehouses are three-dimensional workspaces where a single misplaced box can cause serious head or brain injury if it falls from a high enough location.
What Types of Accidents Should Be Investigated?
When it comes to picking what accident to investigate, no incident is small enough. What was a near miss today might cause a serious injury tomorrow. That’s why Worksafe strongly recommends employers to investigate any incident in which a worker was injured or came close to getting hurt.
If you think there’s a pattern between seemingly separate incidents, a detailed investigation will help you uncover the root of the problem.
What Should the Warehouse Accident Investigation Process Look Like?
Accident investigations in warehouses are conducted by a supervisor and often include managers and employees as part of the process. While the causes may vary, each investigation follows similar steps. These are:
1. Establish the Facts
The investigation starts the moment the investigators define what, where, and when an accident happened, as well as who was involved in it.
2. Gather Information
Similar to how police detectives work, accident investigators will visit the site of the incident and gather every possible piece of evidence they can from witness testimonies, safety inspection records, and training manuals – among other sources.
3. Formulate a Hypothesis
What could have caused this accident? At this stage, investigators have enough information to list and categorize the possible environmental, human, or systemic causes of the accident.
4. Determine the Main Cause of the Accident
Every accident has one primary cause without which it might have never occurred – for example, a falling object incident requires a misplaced object to happen.
5. Identify the Root of the Problem
Knowing the cause of the accident isn’t enough. Investigators have to keep asking themselves ‘why’ the risk even existed in the first place. Only then will they be able to map a route that connects the underlying root of the problem with the incidents that derive from it.
6. Fix the Underlying Cause
The last step of the investigation is creating actionable steps that will fix all the factors that led to the incident to ensure it doesn’t happen again.
Improving safety in your warehouse without damaging your productivity is not an easy task. So if you need expert advice to help you investigate workplace accidents in your warehouse, don’t be afraid to reach out today.