No doubt you have read about or seen reports of a gas explosion at JJ’s Restaurant in Kansas City last night. The fire department does not suspect any foul play in the incident. According to Missouri Gas Energy, "Early indications are that a contractor doing underground work struck a natural gas line, but the investigation continues."
While the explosion in Kansas does not appear to have involved an accident at a construction site, early reports do indicate that the cause may have been a contractor performing underground work that struck a gas line. In any event, there are some lessons to learn when investigating or handling an accident on a construction site. These include:
- Prepare before the accident. It is important to prepare before the accident by having a checklist or best practices protocol to follow if an accident should occur. This should include identifying chain of command for notice purposes, identifying internal investigation team members, identifying who will be a company spokesperson, and identifying your risk management team (insurance and legal).
- Act diligently when an accident occurs. Don’t waste all that preparation time before the accident and then not follow your protocol. Make sure medical issues are resolved immediately and lock down the site for evidence preservation. Make a list of all witnesses. Photograph and video the conditions.
- Organize post-accident activities. There may be contractual obligations, regulatory requirements and public relation issues that will come after the accident occurs. Make sure that you review your contract to comply with any notice requirements that may need to be given. If OSHA becomes involved in the workplace accident, then prepare for the investigation with your safety team and risk management team.
- Manage the accident documents. While on the job site, an investigator may ask to see certain records such as the OSHA 300 logs, safety manuals, first aid / medical records, training records, safety meeting minutes, inspection records, and accident reports. In order to keep track of what has been requested and provided to the investigator, make a list of all requested documents and keep a transmittal log of how various documents were transmitted.
- Understand privileges. Please note that accident reports should be reviewed by your attorney prior to production to any investigator. Accident reports should be limited to the facts and should not contain any speculative theories or guesses as to why an accident occurred. If your attorney has directed the preparation of the accident report, that report is privileged and should not be produced to the inspector.
Most construction companies, at some point in their life, will experience a job site accident. It is important for your company to have a plan in place for the day. What lessons learned can you share?