Hello and welcome to this week’s column focused on interviewing and evidence collection for root cause analysis of workplace incidents and accidents.  We refer to four basic categories of evidence in our Interviewing & Evidence Techniques training:

  1. People
  2. Paper
  3. Physical
  4. Recordings

Some investigations only require evidence that does not need special packaging such as training records, policies and procedures (paper evidence) and/or interviews of the people who were there (people evidence). While a workplace investigation is not the same as a criminal investigation where physical evidence often requires forensic examination, there are definitely situations where collecting physical evidence is helpful to the root cause investigation.  Here are a few basic tips:

Packaging: Most physical evidence can be stored in paper containers, like envelopes and boxes. There is a plethora of websites that sell packaging material designed specifically for evidence. Wet evidence (such as fabric) should be air dried before packaging because moisture causes rapid deterioration and risks environmental contamination, like mold.   Allow wet evidence to dry thoroughly and then package it. Then store the evidence at room temperature. If the item is not wet and does not need to “breathe” (for example, the evidence is a collection of bolts), you can also use plastic containers for storage.

Sharp objects:  Package sharp objects in a way to ensure the safety of those handling it.  Packaging may include metal cans, plastic or hard cardboard boxes so long as the object will not protrude.

Size: Ensure the packaging is of adequate size. If the packaging is too small for the item, it may fail over time.  If it’s too large, it could become damaged when it moves around the container.

Avoid using staples to seal evidence envelopes:  Staples can damage the evidence.  Tape across the entire flap of an envelope to seal it.

Don’t forget to tag and mark evidence containers so that you will be able to easily identify what is stored in each container at a later date.

If you’re interested in learning more about Interviewing & Evidence Collection, I hope you will join me in Houston, Texas in November for a 3-day root cause analysis + interviewing and evidence collection course or 1-day  interviewing and evidence collection training.