Safety/Published: February 2, 2023

Improving Incident Investigations with Safety Inspection Data

Ease Icon White On Black
Published by
Read time: 4 mins
Improving Incident Investigations

Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) data show that incidence rates for nonfatal injuries and illnesses are on the rise, with cases involving days away from work increasing 10% from 2020 to 2021, the most recent data available. The data also show an overall drop in respiratory illness cases, meaning the increase isn’t directly related to the impact of COVID-19.  

Preventing workplace incidents and injuries is an ongoing challenge for manufacturers, especially in the face of issues like staffing shortages, supply chain shortages and production pressures. 

Safety inspections are an essential safeguard for proactively identifying hazards and preventing incidents from occurring. When incidents do occur, however, inspection data can provide important insights to inform investigations, root cause analysis and corrective action. 

In today’s post, we look at how to improve incident investigations with safety inspection data, and how going digital with inspections can streamline the process.  

Download your free Root Cause Analysis 101 Guidebook to learn the basics of five common root cause analysis tools

Digging Deeper with Root Cause Analysis

Two of the most common root cause analysis tools used in incident investigations are 5 Whys and Fishbone diagrams. Both of these methods involve brainstorming possible root causes, and safety inspection data can provide key data for evaluating these hypotheses.  

People often attribute safety failures to human error, but this is often just a symptom of the underlying root cause. Looking at past inspection data, you may find that the work area in question has: 

  • A higher proportion of safety non-conformances, for example failure to comply with personal protective equipment (PPE) requirements 
  • A low completion rate for scheduled safety inspections  
  • Several observations or hazards logged that were never resolved 

These situations indicate not an individual error, but a cultural problem where leaders in that work area aren’t holding workers to standard.  

Capturing Plant Floor Conditions

Your investigation may require reviewing past data, an area where safety inspection photos can provide a time-stamped window into actual plant floor conditions. In this context, it can be helpful to require a photo with any safety nonconformance logged during inspections.  

A digital safety inspection app can help by allowing people to quickly capture or upload photos on the spot to the inspection record. Visual data on previously logged hazards can be useful in investigations, capturing more detail than is possible with written descriptions. 

Identifying Systemic Safety Issues

One of the primary goals of any incident investigation is to prevent its recurrence in the future. Part of this is understanding the conditions and contributing factors around the incident, but part of prevention is also identifying other areas at risk of similar issues.  

Here safety inspection data can play a key role in helping you understand the full extent of the problem. Whether it’s a machine guarding issue, PPE compliance, trip hazards or other risks, a full investigation should include reviewing inspection data to identify other work areas with an increased risk of incidents.  

Using Digital Safety Inspections to Collect More Data

Inspection data can provide key insights to inform investigations, but only if that data is readily accessible and easy to analyze. Digital safety inspection software like EASE makes it easier to collect data with easy scheduling, automated reminders and an intuitive mobile app for conducting inspections.  

A reduced administrative burden means companies can easily conduct short, frequent safety inspections, or integrate them into daily quality checks like layered process audits. The result is plants can collect more data and ultimately make more informed decisions. 

Just as important from an investigations perspective, a digital safety inspection app simplifies the reporting process. Instead of having to refer to paper checklists or Excel files, plants can easily segment and drill down into inspection data, for instance looking at safety failures by category, work area or time period.  

Incident investigations can be complex, especially if the problem isn’t straightforward to solve. Root cause analysis may draw on a variety of data to evaluate different hypotheses, and safety inspections can provide key information in this effort. With a digital safety inspection app, companies are equipped to uncover hidden patterns and trends faster, resulting in more efficient problem-solving and reduced risk to workers.  

Learn How to Use Layered Process Audits to Close the Loop on Safety
Read Now

Related articles