- Why investigations matter
- The business case for investigations
- Preparing for an investigation
- Conducting an investigation
- How reporting a near miss can help
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.
An employer investigation is different. It focuses on discovering the factors that led to the crash and finding and fixing those gaps. You can use what you learn to improve safety for employees.
You might discover a hazardous situation or practice you didn’t know existed. If you do, you can tell your drivers about it and explain what needs to be done to reduce their risks. You may find, for example, you need to tighten up your trip planning process, vehicle maintenance practices, and driver selection criteria.
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 can 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 probable 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, suffer harm to your business reputation, and have limited 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).
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.
The agency’s costs associated with the crash include:
|Lost productivity (injured employee missed work)||$6,500|
|Hiring temporary replacement employee||$2,500|
|Renting temporary replacement vehicle||$1,500|
|Insurance premium increases||$2,500|
|Total cost of crash||$26,000|
A3 initiated an investigation as soon as it learned of the crash. It took two days and another $2,000 to complete the investigation.
The A3 investigation team discovered the following factors contributed to the crash:
- Trip planning deficiencies. No one checked the road and weather conditions so they did not know about the forecast storm.
- Inadequate tires. The vehicle had all-season tires rather than winter tires.
- Lack of driving skills. The employee did not have the driving skills or experience necessary for the storm conditions they encountered.
As a result of the findings, the agency promptly invested $8,000 in the following actions to help prevent future crashes:
- Updated vehicle maintenance policy
- Installed winter tires on their 5 vehicles
- Provided winter driving training for employees who drive for work
- Reviewed their trip planning practices, made improvements, and emphasized the need to follow the procedures
The investigation provided valuable information. A3 supervisors and drivers used their improved trip planning practices to avoid a few winter storms from January through April. And, the driver training and winter tires did seem to pay off as there were no further crashes or near misses. Employees credit the corrective actions for their success.
Even if the $2,000 investigation and $8,000 in operational improvements prevent only one $26,000 crash, that’s an excellent return on investment.
Preparing for an investigation
Successful investigations require planning and preparation so you can act quickly and effectively when a vehicle 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 the investigation. 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. We recommend your management team and safety committee 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 of the areas to cover in your policy and procedures include:
If anyone is injured in a crash, it’s critical to quickly get emergency resources to the scene. Drivers and passengers need to know what to do. Your response team, managers, supervisors, and the people who will take part in the investigation also need to know their role. Decide what actions will be taken and who will take them. Write them down in your policy and procedures.
At least once a year, review your emergency response with employees. Better yet, use a mock incident to test your system. It can help you identify any gaps.
Depending on the consequences, you may be legally required to report a crash to the police, ICBC, and WorkSafeBC. In your policy and procedures, specify who will make those reports. You also need to decide when and how reports are to be made to management in your organization. Options include:
- Crashes in which anyone is injured, or cause more than $25,000 in property damage, must be reported immediately to the senior manager.
- All near misses that had the potential for serious injury must be reported to a supervisor.
If an employee is injured in a crash, family members deserve to know the facts as soon as you have them. Co-workers will probably be concerned too. In some cases, the media may have questions. Know what information your organization will share and who will assemble and communicate it.
For most incidents, police are eager to get traffic moving again as soon as possible. That means some of the information you’ll need for an investigation can disappear quickly. People who saw what happened often walk or drive away soon after the incident.
Your policy needs to explain who will collect information at the crash site (PDF 326KB). To make sure they have the tools and supplies they need, review our crash investigation equipment checklist.
Choose your investigation team now, before a crash occurs. To ensure you have the expertise you need, consider the following people:
- Someone who has incident investigation training and knows the process for reporting and corrective action
- Someone familiar with the driving your employees do and who will offer practical perspectives, questions, and ideas
- A management representative who understands the business and its interests
- A member of the joint health and safety committee or a worker representative
It’s a good idea to have a back-up investigator in case one of the team members is unavailable when a crash occurs.
Not all incidents require the same resources. For some incidents and for small organizations, the team might be 1 or 2 people. Crashes that result in fatalities, serious injuries, or significant property or environmental damage require greater diligence. You might want to hire an outside investigator.
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.
The guide can be used on its own or with our Investigating Motor Vehicle Incidents Online Course.
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.