Since 1995, EMU PPAT has been a member of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) Training Institute Education Center Program, a network of nonprofits selected by OSHA to provide formal health and safety training.
One of the critical components of OSHA Education and a required course for several of EMU PPAT's Safety Certificates is the OSHA Course #7505, Introduction to Incident Investigation. The course covers basic incident investigation procedures and incident analysis techniques, providing students with the skills to conduct effective incident investigations at the workplace.
"I firmly believe a good investigation course ties the [safety and health] program together," says John Rupp Jr, Lead Instructor at the EMU OSHA Education Center since 2012 and a Chair on the Board of Health and Safety Compliance and Appeals, State of Michigan (MIOSHA) since 2019.
Rupp's health and safety experience started at General Motors in the early 1980s when he was asked to help with OSHA efforts to teach ergonomics, fitting a job to a person. Since then, he's played a major part in the evolution of OSHA and spent the past 40 years involved with the organization, including acting as the Assistant Director of the UAW Health and Safety Department and one of the earliest instructors at OSHA's education centers.
Rupp continues teaching after retiring from his day job, partly for the love of keeping workers safe, but also for the health and safety of his marriage. "My wife retired three years before me and once I retired we traveled overseas. After returning we were sitting at the kitchen table and she looks across the table and told me, 'You're ruining my retirement, you have to go do something.' Hence, this is what I do."
The Importance of Incident Investigation
Incidents refer to worksite fatalities, injuries, illnesses, and even close calls. The investigation is the first step towards determining why an event occurred and how it may be preventable in the future.
Incident investigation was formerly known as accident investigation, and OSHA made this minor yet effective tweak to emphasize that almost all worksite fatalities, injuries, and illnesses are preventable.
Instead of chalking up workplace incidents as mishaps or accidents, workers and organizations can interpret them as lessons to improve our workplaces for the future, ensuring that the victims of such incidents are not harmed in vain.
"As investigators, the best way to honor victims and their families is to turn tragedy into something that helps prevent any future incident," says Rupp.
How OSHA Course #7505 Addresses Incidents
The course covers an introduction to basic incident investigation procedures and accident analysis techniques, part of which is a six-step process created by OSHA. One of the key lessons of the process is focused on identifying the root causes of fatalities, injuries, illnesses, or close calls rather than the trap many organizations fall into, finding who is to blame.
"We break it into two chunks, incident investigation, that's gathering the information, and then there's incident analysis— what are the related causes," explains Rupp. "What are the potential corrective actions? How do you share the information? How do you write the reports and how do you follow up? So, it's a coordinated six-step process."
Both incident investigation and analysis have challenges that the course helps students overcome.
"As an investigator, you have to gather information and set aside any biases or conclusions," says Rupp. "It's human nature to search for the action of an individual, which creates confirmation bias or hindsight bias. So, in the beginning, we talk a lot about the characteristics of an investigator, the techniques of an investigator to gain information in an interview, and how to stay in that mode until you've gathered enough information to start putting it all together."
When it comes to the analysis portion, the course focuses on serious injury or fatality (SIF) incidents, but the analysis philosophies can be applied to smaller incidents to prevent near-misses from becoming SIF incidents.
"Any circumstance that could have resulted in SIF or significant property damage is a gold nugget if it didn't happen," explains Rupp. "That's a gold nugget and deserves a high-level investigation because we can often identify things that cause or contributed and take corrective action. Maybe, it's a fix, training, procedure, more oversight, so it never happens."
The virtual course illustrates investigations in a memorable way, students will have the opportunity to roleplay through a real-life scenario and learn how those involved in the incident investigation should navigate those events.
"We have a scenario of a fatality from the late eighties," explains Rupp. "So people are given enough information, divided into groups and have to seek the information, interview people, and so on."
This provides students with a simulated experience of how to deploy an effective accident investigation, which can be applied to their workplace. As a take-home for the analysis side, the course also provides a start-stop-continue exercise chart, which can help attendees apply the overall principles learned in the class to their workplace.
Incidents are an unfortunate but everyday occurrence in the workplace, but through proper preparedness and education, we can approach these incidents objectively and strive to make them less likely tomorrow.
"The best safety career you can have," says Rupp. "Is that at the end of 30 years when you're ready to retire, everyone goes 'What did you do all these years? Nothing ever happened!' But if we were prepared, if we did our job, if we did our hazard analysis, training, our communication, if we sought input from everybody, workers and managers—man, I'd love to sign off after 30 years of never having anything happen. That's a really good job."
For more information on OSHA Course #7505, Incident Investigation at EMU PPAT taught by John Rupp Jr., and our other OSHA courses, visit our course page.