3 Ways to be Better Prepared for an Incident Investigation
1) Write an Investigation Policy
Every incident you investigate may be different; however, a standard policy providing an efficient and effective framework will help each investigator be less reactive and more thoughtful about approach. If you have an investigation policy, review it to ensure these questions are answered as well. Here are a few things to think about:
- What gets investigated? Minor incidents? Near misses? Does every reported incident get investigated? If incidents are not investigated, opportunities to identify root causes and develop fixes are lost.
- How will key people be notified? Specify the notification of company personnel and regulatory agencies.
- What evidence should be collected? Structure the evidence to be collected. This may include witness statements/interview transcripts, photographs and debris of broken items, electronic evidence such as CCTV footage; and documentary evidences such as timesheets, policies, and procedures.
- Is your corrective action implementation process outlined? The purpose of an investigation is to find and fix problems, but this is where many investigators drop the ball. Include corrective action tracking. Define requirements for corrective action verification and validation.
- Are responsibilities assigned? Who will be part of the investigation team? Decide which members will help with evidence collection, which is the most time-intensive part of the investigation process. Decide who will be responsible for analysis of the evidence collected, who will develop corrective actions, and who will complete the report to management.
2) Prepare for Evidence Collection and Preservation
Your investigation is only as good as your evidence. Every fact should be supported by evidence; otherwise, you will be influenced by your own bias. Ensure that evidence is preserved by shift personnel and first responders. Evidence preservation also needs to be considered for the investigation team (during the investigation), and for retention of evidence for legal proceedings (after the investigation). Also, you should plan to preserve evidence while sharing it with legal authorities or governmental regulatory bodies.
3) Specify Training Requirements for Investigation Team Members
Your investigators should meet certain requirements. They should be trained in root cause analysis and investigative techniques. They must have effective interviewing skills. They should know how to develop and implement corrective actions. They should be knowledgeable about any legal or organization requirements. Well-trained investigators should possess the aptitude, insight, and intuition to identify work processes and procedures for unique situations and circumstances. Training your team in advance ensures the investigation is effective and your investigators have effective skills.
The right preparation saves time and prevents mistakes that could potentially derail an investigation. Provide your investigation team with the guidance of a well-written policy. Stress the importance of solid evidence collection, and empower their skill set through training.
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