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Leadership for Lineworkers, Part 6: Accident Investigations

Feb. 19, 2020
Front-line supervisors will have to handle everything from injuries to fatalities. Here's what to do if one of your linemen has an accident on the job.

Performing accident investigations will eventually become part of your job duties when you transition into your role as a frontline supervisor. As a foreman, your only involvement will typically be to provide information if the accident occurred on your job site. In this new role, the most important thing for you to do is to gather the facts, be impartial and understand the process involved when performing this task.

You will be involved in investigations that range from minor--on the level of First Aid--to catastrophic-- a fatality--to property damage, etc. It is imperative that you receive some training or have an experienced supervisor, Human Resources person or a safety professional provide you with mentoring and coaching in this area in addition to assisting you during the investigation.

Step 1: Gather Information

When you become a frontline supervisor, your phone may ring in the middle of the night with news that a lineman has been injured on the job. You need to ascertain as much information as possible in a short amount of time.

Here is what you should find out:

  • Who is calling you? Is it the foreman or law enforcement, etc.?
  • Has the injured party been transported to a medical facility?
  • Do you have a policy manual or a written list of protocols that need to be implemented?
  • Who do you call?

Step 2: Check Your Company's Procedures 

Questions about procedures and protocols should already have been answered prior to you taking on the role as a supervisor, particularly if you are responsible for on-call and emergency outage restoration operations. You should have someone who can assist you in this incident. A representative of the company should be going to the hospital to check on the injured worker. In this case, it should be someone who is responsible for worker's compensation documentation and can act as a liaison between the injured worker and his or her family.

You might be asking, “shouldn’t the line supervisor be going to the hospital to check on the worker?” Again, it depends on the company’s procedures. However, I would advise against that. Your main priority is to go to the job location and meet with the crew. When you were initially contacted, you should have talked to the foreman and told him to secure the work location and make it safe. You should have also told him or her that no more work is to be done and you are on your way.

Step 3: Meet With the Foreman and the Crew

Once you’ve arrived at the job site, you and the foreman will have a brief discussion about the accident. You will also discuss the status of the job and if it’s safe to stop work and secure the job until the next day.

Step 4: Conduct a Tailboard

Next, you will gather everyone around for a tailboard and ask how everyone is doing. Find out if anyone needs to go home or if they can stay and complete the work.

The crew might be down two workers. Typically you don’t send an injured worker to the hospital alone. Another person from the crew will accompany him or her. You might need to call in additional resources to finish this job. You may have already done that based on a conversation you had with the foreman before you came out to the job.

Step 5: File Paperwork and Perform the Investigation. 

When an accident occurs, there are a lot of things that a supervisor will need to know. You must also  understand the policies for handling these situations. Oftentimes, it requires a lot more paperwork, documentation, investigation work and fact-finding.

Take the time to work with your supervisor, human resources and the safety department to ensure that you understand how to properly and effectively deal with these unfortunate situations.

Do you have a question about leadership for lineworkers or training and development? Email it to Maximo Fuentes. 

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