Ask “Why” – Discover the Root Cause of a Workplace Injury


An employee is injured. You have a checklist for what happens next – getting emergency help if needed, filling out insurance paperwork, notifying family, etc.

Benjamin Franklin wisely said, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” Stopping to find out “why” may be the most important prevention tool. When HR managers know the root causes of workplace accidents, they can work towards a zero accident workplace.

Detective work

First of all, there may be surface causes like an unsafe environment or practices that contributed to an accident. And then there are the root causes. Your control systems, training or equipment may be inadequate and lead to unsafe conditions.

Once you identify the root cause, you can form a more comprehensive preventative program.

Was the equipment properly maintained? Can the organization replace hazardous materials or equipment with less hazardous? Are warning signals that staff can see and hear needed on the work floor? Are the employees well trained? If so, do you train periodically to emphasize safety and ensure employees haven’t introduced shortcuts into their work process?

If someone works in a particularly hazardous job or area of the workspace, rotate other trained staff members to cover breaks from tedious but potentially dangerous jobs. Do you discipline people who don’t follow safety rules? If you don’t, no one will take your safety program seriously, which leads to more injuries or damage.

And last, after you have created controls, make sure workers in hazardous areas have PPE – personal protective equipment.

Determine who is accountable and communicate the importance that management puts on safety.

Preventing accidents

According to Zero Accident Consulting LLC, there are steps you can take to help prevent accidents.

  • Form safety protocols.
  • Train and communicate safety procedures to employees.
  • Create a safety team.
  • Ask staff to run through and evaluate their safety procedures from time to time.
  • Conduct safety audits to make sure your safety controls are working.
  • Analyze each job for appropriate safety conventions.
  • Recognize/reward safety-conscious employees.
  • Report and investigate every accident.
    • Report immediately
    • Have an established emergency response
    • Notify family
    • Notify insurance carrier(s)
    • Let everyone involved know what happens next
    • Block off the accident scene
    • Interview witnesses, supervisors and the injured worker
  • Analyze the accident data and come up with plans to prevent the immediate and root causes.
  • Communicate new procedures.

Once you establish guidelines and training, you need buy-in from the entire management structure to create risk-reducing procedures that work. If safety isn’t prioritized and incorporated into the organizational culture, no amount of procedures will prevent safety.


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Tamera Shaw is a freelance writer for Insured Solutions based in Louisville, Kentucky. She writes fiction and enjoys amateur photography. She happily shares her life with husband Ron, daughter Cate and sage cat, Sophie, who grudgingly shares her home with the newest member of our family – Nieko, our new kitten.


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