How To Conduct an Impartial Safety Investigation

Last night an air hose ruptured and an employee was injured by the stream of compressed air that was directed into his eyes. You, the Safety Manager, must investigate the accident and forward the results in report form to the corporate headquarters and the local representative for workplace safety.

This investigation is going to be very high profile. There are issues of liability that must be answered for the company’s insurance agency. There are issues with the local building and safety board as well. The accident investigation must be detailed enough to answer questions from anyone that reads it. And, of course, everyone needed it completed yesterday.

At the top of page one, and on every page thereafter, place the title of the investigation centered on a one inch margin. For example: “Report of investigation into the injuries incurred by [worker name] on [date and time] while working on installation of permanent overhead shop lighting.”

At the bottom of each page, you should note that it is [page number] of [total pages] as well. Because this is a formal report you may also be required to incorporate various office codes, a standard subject identifier, or other corporate correspondence indicators as well.

Findings of Fact

Directly below the title block you will begin the report by listing your “Findings of Fact.” During the investigation you must stay focused on strict fact finding. You must gather supporting evidence that proves each fact beyond a doubt. Some of the evidence will be in the form of statements from the victim and other workers. There should be photographs taken of the accident scene and the surrounding area. Be sure to dive deeply into the corporate safety policy and compare that to the victim’s training record and workplace logs as well. After a couple of days playing detective, a fairly good picture of what transpired before, during, and after the accident should appear.

Here is what the Findings of Fact should look like:

Findings of Fact:
(1) That on [date and time], [Employee Name] was involved in a lost production time accident while installing overhead lights in the shop area. (Enclosures 1 and 2)
(2) That on [date and time], [Employee Name] was directed by [Employee Name and Title] to install overhead lights in the shop area. (Enclosure 4)

One of the facts is supported by two enclosures. Each enclosure must independently prove the fact. If one is removed the other must stand on its own merit. The enclosure page of the investigation is normally right behind the body of the report.


Opinions, as they pertain to an investigation, are based solely on logical conclusions drawn from a fact or facts uncovered during the investigation. The opinion section follows the Findings of Fact. Each opinion must reference the facts that support the formation of the opinion. Ideally, each supporting fact will fully support the opinion in question. In reality, it usually takes two or more facts to form a defensible opinion.

Here is what your opinion section should look like:

(1) That [Employee Name] was certified to be performing the installation of overhead lights in the shop area. (Findings of Fact 1, 2, and 3)
(2) That [Employee Name] was authorized to be performing the installation of overhead lights in the shop area. (Findings of Fact 1, 2, and 6)

Don’t make the mistake of forming compound facts or opinions. Each is an item all its own.


Recommendations in an accident investigation must follow the same rules. In this case, the recommendation is based on an opinion or group of opinions. It is very important that your report, and especially the opinions and recommendations, be unbiased. That is why this report structure is important. When used properly it is very hard for bias to creep in.

Here is what your recommendations should look like.

(1) That no disciplinary action be taken against [Employee Name]. (Opinions 1 and 2)
(2) That remedial training be conducted within the work section on the potential hazards and safeguards of using compressed air driven tools. (Opinions 23, 24, 25, and 26)

The report can range from four or five pages to hundreds depending on circumstances and complexities uncovered during the investigation phase. There is no upper limit. If it takes hundreds of facts to support dozens of opinions and a handful of recommendations, then so be it.

After completing your report in this format the next step is to forward copies through the agencies that need the information. The first thing they will recognize is that bias played no part. The really discerning will understand that the format itself will require the investigator to come to an unbiased conclusion in spite of anything from rumors and innuendo, to VIP scrutiny, or even office politics.

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