Injury & Illness Investigation
When a work-related injury or illness occurs it is important to investigate the reasons why it happened so we can suggest changes to prevent a similar incident from happening again. Most injuries and illnesses are preventable. The purpose of an investigation is not to assign blame, but to identify contributing factors which can then be controlled. By identifying the factors that led to the incident and then changing the conditions or actions, similar incidents can be avoided in the future.
At the NIH, when a person reports to the Occupational Medicine Service (OMS) that they have had a work-related incident that resulted in an injury or illness, the basic facts (who, what, when, and where) are shared with specific individuals in the Division of Occupational Health and Safety (DOHS) who review each incident and try to determine the why and how – why it happened and how to stop it from happening again. Most incidents are investigated either by the supervisor of the injured person or by a member of DOHS or both. The information is shared only with those with a need-to-know, maintaining confidentiality of the injured person while still meeting workers compensation and OSHA requirements. If the injured person is a contractor, DOHS works with the contractor’s management to ensure that the employer of the worker investigates and addresses concerns within their control.
Occasionally very minor incidents may not be investigated because there is no likely learning opportunity, such as a paper cut in an office or an insect sting when eating lunch outdoors.
- Is the incident recordable according to OSHA requirements? This is intended to identify only more serious incidents and not the ‘first aid’ type of incidents.
- Does the incident require submission to the Department of Labor for Workers Compensation? This is true if the worker cannot do their regular job for any period of time, or if the injury requires medical treatment beyond what OMS provides. In these cases OMS submits the proper forms on behalf of the worker and the supervisor.
To maintain the right to receive compensation for a work-related injury or illness it is essential to report the injury/illness to OMS promptly, to complete the employee portions of the report and for the supervisor to complete their portions of the report and send it back to OMS within a few days. If the incident happens on the main campus workers should report to OMS at Building 10 room 6C306. If the injury occurs when OMS is closed or at a distant location, or if the injury is severe enough to require transport to a hospital, then the worker or their supervisor must notify OMS as quickly as possible to help ensure proper medical treatment, incident investigation, and filing with workers compensation.
Each year from February 1 to April 30 each employer has to share certain injury/illness information with employees. At NIH the data is posted on the DOHS website categorized by work location, as required by OSHA.
Summaries of work-related injuries and illnesses are shared with Institute/Center Safety Committees so that they may help identify trends and establish processes to prevent recurrence, and to share the learning opportunities more widely. Data or summaries are always modified so that personal identifiers are NOT associated with a report.