Saturday 11 July 2020

Industries that fail to recognize and learn from past incidents often result in repeated accidents

In reality, more than 337 million accidents happen at the workplace each year. Though it is hard to analyze exactly what causes them however 80 out of every 100 accidents that take place in the workplace are ultimately caused by a lack of appropriate safety measures. Industrial accidents are happening from time to time but it still reminds us of the need for improvement in safety performance. Knowing how and why these accidents occur can help industries take even more steps to reduce the likelihood of incidents to happen in the future.

Recent accidents across the country have highlighted the significance of incident recalling that helps in recognizing and controlling the potential hazards inherent in many industrial operations. As long as the safety standards are not enforced and safeguards are not implemented severe consequences from major accidents are likely to increase.  

Accident prevention has been traditionally based on learning from past accidents and near misses. Incident recalling is a method of recalling past injuries or damage or production loss caused and brings about an awareness of their causes and helps us ensure that steps are in place and that a recurrence does not happen. Incident recall technique is a part of the safety system that is meant to systematically gather information and learn from the close calls and accidents that have not been reported, so that information and data can be disseminated and future events can be prevented.

One of the more well-known accident/incident ratio studies is the one that was carried out under the guidance of Frank E. Bird, Jr. in 1969. It is the most extensive accident ratio study ever carried out that has revealed that there are many more incidents than accidents, many more opportunities to learn and improve. These near misses or incidents should be thoroughly investigated and preventive measures put in place to avoid the recurrence. This accident ratio states that major injuries are rare events and more frequent, less serious events provide opportunities to improve safety in a proactive manner.

Incident investigation is an important tool in the incident recalling process to learn from past accidents. Conducting an incident investigation will provide a deeper understanding of the associated risks in industrial facilities. Most incident investigations fail at some stage because they do not get further information rather than the immediate causes. In doing this, the industries fail to understand the true causes of incidents and it is often observed that employees ignore the incident alerts due to poor dissemination of information. Most employees would easily learn the facts with the use of visual aids such as animations or video clips to make a better sense of what has happened and what could be done to prevent such an incident occurring in the future. Any such developed material for learning purposes should include technical, procedural, and behavioral aspects of incidents to have a better impact. Considering this fact that the majority of incident investigation reports conducted by industrial experts lack the required details, including human and organizational factors, this ultimately leads to the failure in implementing remedial actions and inadequacies of safety measures. Overall, improving the quality of incident investigation in most organizations will require significant changes in their culture.

By investigating every incident, we learn about causes and can take action towards mitigating or removing the causes. There may be conditions and four main factors that contribute to the accident that has to be recalled.


A majority of the industrial accidents that occur every year are a result of human error. Many of these accidents are a result of the worker’s failure to follow the safety procedures. A majority of industrial injuries (74.8%) happened in the service-related industry, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Accidents can occur when the proper equipment is not used by personnel and can also result in many injuries when workers attempt to use improper tools to work on equipment causing damage to the machines and property loss.


A majority of industrial accidents occurred as a result of improper training of personnel. Workers should be trained properly how to operate the equipment in the way it was designed to be used. They should also learn to employ all necessary safety procedures when they are operating the equipment. Employees should be well versed in what to do and how to react if something goes wrong and fix the problem quickly before it gets out of control.


Accidents that occur in most of the plant facilities can also be the result of manufacturing defects. These defects can be present in a piece of equipment or in the materials employed. Although industries employ several quality-control measures during the manufacturing process, some of these may fail during inspection where humans are involved there is always a chance of human error. An inspector may miss a defect that occurred during manufacturing. The problem may not be recognized until after an accident has occurred.


Another important reason that industrial accidents occur is the improper maintenance of equipment. Regular maintenance at scheduled intervals following the manufacturer’s recommendations is important for ensuring that the equipment runs smoothly and safely. Improper and inadequate maintenance can lead to malfunctioning and failure of the machines that can result in dire consequences.

Recognizing and recalling these main causes of accidents in a plant facility is important for addressing the problem and reducing the potential for an accident to occur in the future.

Information on the causes of accidents serves the following purposes:

It can demonstrate if something is wrong and what needs to be changed.
It indicates the contributory factors that cause accidents (or near accidents).
It identifies and describes the underlying circumstances that determine the presence of potential hazards and risky situations.

Recalling past accidents is of vital importance in a safety management system. Incident recall can help people remember events that could have led to undesired consequences. These accident causal factors are very different from “unsafe acts”, and the management requires specific actions by safety specialists, system designers, and system managers to identify interlinked series of mechanical failures, human judgments, engineering design, and operational implementation for accident prevention and total loss control.

Article by Dr.Yashoda Tammineni,
MSc, Ph.D.

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