NEBOSH, a global provider of health, safety and environmental management qualifications, 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. Somehow, translating this into thorough, effective incident investigations is not 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 are being done, and an effective investigation will uncover any weaknesses in your systems.

There are concerns that some 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

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. That’s why we partnered with the Health and Safety Executive, Great Britain’s Health and Safety Regulator, to create the NEBOSH HSE Introduction to Incident Investigation qualification. This one-day, entry-level qualification is designed to give candidates the knowledge and confidence to investigate minor incidents unaided.

Learn how to investigate non-complex incidents

People who choose to study the NEBOSH HSE Introduction to Incident Investigation will be able to:

  • Independently investigate simple incidents
  • Gather evidence and know how to conduct witness interviews
  • Produce an action plan to prevent a recurrence
  • Contribute to team investigations for large scale incidents
  • Positively impact the safety culture of your organisation 

For more information and to download the full syllabus, visit www.nebosh.org.uk/inv  

Study online

The NEBOSH HSE Introduction to Incident Investigation can be studied online or via remote learning with one of NEBOSH’s accredited Learning Partners. What’s more, for learners wishing to stay safe and add to their CV during the COVID-19 pandemic, they can take their assessment and achieve the full qualification remotely too.

For a list of Learning Partners offering this qualification via remote or eLearning, visit: https://www.nebosh.org.uk/inv-online/

Mohammed Akbar

“I recently passed the NEBOSH HSE Introduction to Incident Investigation. Honestly, it was great, particularly the part where I learnt how to carry out investigation interviews. I chose to study eLearning so that it could do it in my own time and determine the perfect time for me to study.”  

Mohammed Akbar HSE Superintendent, Bonatti and RRC International learner