Safety Manager Gail House had a problem: If so many employee injuries at her company were sprains and strains, why weren’t they being investigated properly? Not only did she set up an investigation procedure, she also reduced injuries.
Per calendar year, strains, sprains, pain or spasms made up 40% of our injury reports.
But out of those reported, only a small number were investigated to find root causes.
Staff didn’t investigate them because they thought the incidents didn’t offer much opportunity for identifying meaningful root causes.
But I was convinced that wasn’t the case. Meaningful investigations could lead to practical recommendations to control or abate hazards and risks.
A key to meaningful investigations was to ask better questions of the people involved.
It’s all in the question
A poorly phrased question can lead an employee – and an investigation – down the wrong path. Examples:
Misleading: Why did this accident happen? (Questions translates to the worker as, who’s to blame?)
Better: What led to your pain or injury?
Misleading: Have you had this pain before? (Workers tend to give answers that point only to work.)
Better: What situations set off your pain? (Interviewer can follow up with, “Does it happen off work, too?)
After supervisors used better questioning techniques, we were better able to identify real root causes of incidents that either caused or had the potential to cause injuries.
We were able to take corrective action and lower our injury rate.
(Adapted from a presentation by Gail House, Safety & Health Manager, Walt Disney World Resort, Orlando, FL, at ASSE’s Safety 2008 conference)