An incident unfortunately cannot be undone, but a properly executed safety investigation can prevent similar incidents.
Investigations can make for good storytelling. An incident occurs, surrounded by mystery, and an investigator must solve the mystery. In a criminal investigation, solving the mystery involves determining whether a crime was committed and, if so, who should be held responsible. In regulatory investigations, solving the mystery involves determining whether the organization was in compliance with regulations and, if not, what citations and fines should be issued. In civil or insurance investigations, solving the mystery involves determining whether there is contractual or tort liability. By their very nature, these investigations look backward and focus on whom to blame for an incident.
Safety investigations are different. They look at incidents that have happened, not to find clues about whom to blame, but to find clues about what to fix. Unlike other types of investigations, safety investigations look forward to determine how best to prevent a reoccurrence of the incident.
This article highlights the importance of safety investigations in the chemical process industries (CPI) and outlines the necessary steps to properly execute an investigation and avoid similar incidents.
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