Tool Kit

Investigating Crashes

Even with the best planning, crashes can happen. When they do, an investigation can help your organization understand what went wrong and what can be done to prevent future crashes. Learn more about the benefits of investigations and how to conduct them.

Why investigations matter

Crashes and the injuries they cause are traumatic for the people involved. The consequences for their employers can be disastrous, too. The police, insurance companies, and WorkSafeBC may investigate. If they do, their focus is to determine if there was criminal wrongdoing, establish fault and assign liability, or see if the employer met safety requirements.

Employer-led employer investigations are different. They focus on discovering the factors that led to the crash (what happened, and why) and then finding and fixing the associated gaps in the safety system. You can then use what you learn from the investigation to improve safety for employees.

The investigation might reveal a hazardous situation or practice you didn’t know existed. If it does, you can tell your drivers about it and explain what needs to be done to reduce risks. You may find, for example, you need to tighten up your driver training practices, trip planning process, or vehicle maintenance practices.

The business case for investigations

Crashes can incur terrible human costs. They can also hurt an organization’s bottom line in several ways. Use our Motor Vehicle Incident Calculator to see how much money a crash could cost your organization.

You may, for example, need to find and hire a temporary replacement while the injured employee recovers. That’s not easy in today’s labour market. Plus, you’ll have to orient and train the new hire.

You might experience lower productivity as the new hire gets up to speed. You may face an expensive vehicle repair bill and insurance premium increases. Long repair line-ups can cause lengthy delays. And finding a replacement vehicle could take a while.

Your organization may be exposed to liabilities and suffer harm to your business reputation, because of the crash itself or your reduced  ability to serve customers.

Here’s an example of how an investigation can protect your bottom line. It uses a fictitious company we’re calling Awesome Ad Agency (A3).

The scenario

Awesome Ad Agency (A3) is a small company with 5 vehicles. Their sales reps drive to visit customers throughout the region. Up until last winter, A3 had not experienced a crash. In November, an employee was injured in a crash on their way to see a client.

Crash costs
Investigation findings
Corrective actions
Return on investment

Preparing for an investigation

Successful investigations require planning so you can act quickly and effectively when a crash occurs. To be ready, have a policy and procedures that explain the steps, roles, and responsibilities of the employees who will be involved in investigations. Be sure to teach them what they need to do.

Writing an investigation policy

Depending on resources and capacity, it might not be realistic to investigate all incidents. Your management team and safety committee should jointly develop a policy that describes the kinds of crashes you will investigate, and the scope of those investigations.

For example, your policy might say:

When any work vehicle(s) owned by the organization or one of our employees is involved, we will investigate:

  • All crashes that result in injuries requiring medical treatment for an employee or non-employee, or result in more than 1 shift of lost work time
  • All near misses that had the potential for serious injuries
  • All crashes that result in property or environmental damage greater than $30,000

Investigations will focus on:

  • Identifying basic causes
  • Determining what can be done to eliminate or reduce those causes
  • Recommending actions to prevent similar incidents or near misses

Some other areas to cover in your policy and procedures include:

Emergency response requirements
Reporting requirements
Notification requirements
Gathering information at the crash scene
Investigation participants

Conducting an investigation

Organizations of any size can use our Crash Investigation Guide (PDF 452KB) to help determine the causes of driving incidents. It provides a step-by-step approach and includes examples of questions to ask and information to seek so you can arrive at constructive answers.

The guide can be used on its own or with our Investigating Motor Vehicle Incidents Online Course.

To create an accurate record of crash information, use our Motor Vehicle Near Miss Report and Incident Investigation Form (PDF 472KB).

Collecting information

It’s important to decide who will gather the information you need. The person needs to have the necessary training and tools. An employee at the scene is often the best choice if they are not shaken up or injured. Other options include a manager, other employee, or a qualified third party that you send to the crash scene.

If the crash is serious, it may require someone with more specialized skills and tools.

Consider the following when assigning a person to collect information:

Risks to personal safety
Travel time to crash scene
Reports from police and other agencies

How reporting a near miss can help

Near misses are narrowly-avoided driving incidents that had the potential for injury or damage. They’re warning signs. Investigating them can show you how to prevent a similar incident in the future.

Near miss examples

Many near misses go unreported. They shouldn’t if they had significant potential for injury or property damage. Next time, the driver may not be as fortunate.

Here are some examples of near misses:

  • You fall asleep at the wheel and the car wanders toward the ditch. You wake up before leaving the road in time to recover control.
  • You hit a large puddle and start to hydroplane to the right, heading for a cyclist. Before you can regain control, the cyclist gets out of your way.
  • A car changes lanes right in front of you, forcing you to brake hard to avoid a collision.

In each case, reports should be made to your organization by the driver. There’s value in investigating every near miss.

Tips for a near miss reporting system

Having a simple program for reporting near misses encourages employees to come forward. Sometimes they don’t because it’s not always obvious when a near miss happens. Many times, the process of reporting deters them.

We recommend these tips to overcome non-reporting:

  • Educate employees to recognize near misses.
  • Tell them why near miss reporting is important and how you will follow up on reports.
  • Set up a simple reporting system.
  • Consider allowing anonymous reporting so employees don’t fear penalties or retribution.
  • Train employees in how to report and provide periodic training refreshers.
  • Celebrate your program’s success.
  • Talk with staff about near misses.

Talking with staff about near misses

Don’t have a formal reporting system? There’s plenty to learn from informal, collaborative discussions.

Take time during staff or tailgate meetings to ask employees to share their near miss driving stories. Even if it didn’t happen while they were working, there’s value in sharing the experience with others. Ask what happened, what they think went wrong, and what they’ll do to prevent something like that from happening again.



Crash Investigations Guide

When a crash happens, an investigation can provide information you can use to prevent other crashes. Organizations of any size can use this step-by-step guide to conduct effective investigations.
Online Course

Investigating Motor Vehicle Incidents

Discover how investigating crashes and near misses can help you strengthen policies and procedures to prevent future injuries and incidents.

MVI Cost Calculator

Do you know the true cost of motor vehicle incidents (MVI)? Use our MVI Cost Calculator to learn how much you can save by investing in road safety initiatives.

What to Do if You’re Involved in a Crash Checklist

Drivers need to know what to do if their vehicle is involved in a crash. Review this tip sheet with them so they understand how to keep themselves safe and gather information.

Motor Vehicle Near Miss Report and Incident Investigation Form

Having an accurate record of the details of a crash or near miss is critical. Use this form’s easy-to-follow steps and checklists for recording information.