A look at OSHA Accident Investigation Guidelines

Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has innumerable guidelines on the ways an employer can assure employees safety at the workplace. OSHA Accident Investigation Guidelines, as the name denotes, are aimed ensuring a safe workplace in which accidents are prevented or managed.

First, what is an accident according to OSHA?

OSHA describes an accident as an unplanned or unexpected event which causes injury to a person or any piece of property in the workplace. OSHA ascribes such event/s directly to the organization's Safety Health Management System (SHMS). OSHA's reasoning is that if the organization's SHMS was well conditioned, such accidents would not and should not happen.

OSHA has issued guidelines to its inspectors and officers on how to carry out accident investigations. These are contained in the form of OSHA Accident Investigation Guidelines.

The way of going about OSHA Accident Investigation Guidelines


OSHA Accident Investigation Guidelines proceed on the classification of incidents first. Accidents are classified into the following two categories:

  • Incidents:The actual happening of something that causes an injury to a person or damage to a piece of property

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  • Near-miss:This is a less severe version of an incident, wherein something that happened did not actually cause any of the adverse effects of an incident. OSHA Accident Investigation Guidelines require such events to be recorded too, so that they could serve as a guideline to understanding weaknesses in the organization's SHMS.

The aim of OSHA Accident Investigation Guidelines

OSHA Accident Investigation Guidelines are formulated on these following standpoints:

  • OSHA Accident Investigation Guidelines are aimed at helping the organization identify weaknesses and loopholes in its SHMS. They seek to equip organizations with ways of understanding the root causes of such incidents and to help prevent recurrence of the same
  • OSHA Accident Investigation Guidelines require officers and investigators to report on incidents and near-misses so that these can be investigated into and reported
  • OSHA Accident Investigation Guidelines require investigators and officers to conduct these investigations and reports in tune with the organization's procedures

Points to bear for inspectors

OSHA inspectors or officers conducting investigations should bear a few principles in mind: