When disaster strikes, you want to “stop the bleeding” as fast as possible. However, putting a temporary fix on an issue leaves your organization at risk of similar incidents in the future, and they could be even worse.
Conducting a thorough incident analysis helps you uncover the reasons it happened, remove the root causes and take precautions against repeat incidents. Use these steps to guide you through the process.
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Get the Whole Story
The first step to incident analysis is to gather as many facts as you can, as quickly as you can. Collect evidence by:
- Gathering physical evidence, photos and videos from the scene of the incident (if possible)
- Interviewing the subject and victim (if applicable) and witnesses
- Reviewing records such as emails, training records, computer history, policies and procedures
After gathering information, use the facts to make a timeline of events surrounding the incident. What happened before, during and immediately after the incident? An accurate timeline can help you determine both the cause of the incident and problems with how it was handled.
Most importantly, don’t blame, judge or make assumptions. Doing so can limit your investigation at best and lead to a wrongful termination lawsuit at worst.
Conduct a Root Cause Analysis
Using the timeline of events, you can then start conducting a root cause analysis (RCA). An RCA is the process of identifying the underlying causes that led to an event. A root cause is a fundamental problem with an existing system or process within your organization that, if it wasn’t present, the incident wouldn’t have occurred.
To conduct a root cause analysis, identify contributing factors to each major timeline event. These are the secondary causes of the incident. Then, ask why each contributing factor occurred. Keep asking “why?” until you get to a flaw in one of your procedures or policies.
For best results, analyze the incident’s root causes with a team. If possible, include employees from different levels and departments. You’ll get more diverse points of view and may uncover a problem you weren’t aware of.
Not sure where to start? Download our free root cause analysis tools cheat sheet to learn four methods you can use to help you analyze incidents.
In many cases, incidents are not unique. If the conditions exist for an incident to happen once, chances are good that it has happened before and can happen again.
As part of your incident analysis, evaluate historical case data, too. Is a certain type of incident happening frequently? Does one office or location have more total incidents, or incidents of one type? Do incidents spike at certain times of year? Is one person involved in a lot of incidents?
To make this step faster, easier and more accurate, use case management software with a data analysis tool to create reports that highlight areas of risk in your organization.
Correct and Prevent Issues
After you’ve identified trends and the root cause of the incident, brainstorm solutions on how to correct the present issues and prevent repeat incidents.
First, determine the corrective actions you need to take after the incident. These eliminate the root cause of the incident so it doesn’t happen again. Examples of corrective action include:
- Updating policies
- Changing training content and frequency
- Replacing or recalibrating equipment
- Installing or increasing security measures (e.g. cameras, locks, cybersecurity)
As the final step of your incident analysis, decide what preventive actions you need to take. A preventive action addresses problems before they happen, rather than reacting to an incident. These should be based on the trends you uncovered, including what you learned by analyzing the incident at hand. Examples of preventive action include:
- Creating emergency plans
- Implementing new types of employee training
- Conducting internal audits
- Reviewing policies and procedures annually
- Performing regular maintenance on equipment and data systems
Conducting an analysis after every incident will help your company get a detailed picture of its risks and opportunities for improvement. Over time, this helps you build an effective prevention program, decreasing the number of incidents and accidents and boosting safety and security throughout your organization.
Worried you’ll forget this process? Download our free incident analysis checklist to ensure you don’t miss an essential step.
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