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Make the Most of Accident Witness Interviews

Originally posted on https://safetydailyadvisor.blr.com


Witness interviews often reveal important information about workplace accidents. Make sure to make the most of them.

Witness interviews should be conducted by experienced safety personnel as soon after an incident as possible, before memories fade or recollections change.

Questions to ask witnesses include the following:

  • Please fully describe the accident sequence from start to finish.
  • Please fully describe the work and conditions in progress leading up to the accident.
  • Did you notice anything unusual you observed before or during the accident (for example, sights, sounds, odors, etc.)?
  • What conditions influenced the accident (weather, time of day, equipment malfunctions, etc.)?
  • What do you think caused the accident?
  • How could the accident have been prevented?
  • Do you know of any other possible witnesses to this incident?
  • Do you have any additional comments or observations?

When conducting witness interviews, be sure to:

  • Locate the position of each witness on a master chart (including the direction of view).
  • Arrange for a convenient time and place to talk to each witness.
  • Explain the purpose of the investigation (accident prevention) and put each witness at ease.
  • Listen and let each witness speak freely.
  • Be courteous and considerate.
  • Take notes without distracting the witness. Use a tape recorder only with consent of the witness.
  • Use sketches and diagrams to help the witness.
  • Emphasize areas of direct observation. Label hearsay accordingly.
  • Be sincere and do not argue with the witness.
  • Record the exact words used by the witness to describe each observation. Do not “put words into a witness’ mouth.”
  • Word each question carefully and be sure the witness understands.
  • Identify the qualifications of each witness (including job duties, years of experience, etc.).
  • Supply each witness with a copy of his or her statements. Signed statements are desirable.

After interviewing all witnesses, analyze each witness’s statement. Re-interview witnesses to confirm or clarify key points if necessary. Assemble the available testimony into a logical order. Analyze this information along with data from the accident site.