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The Value Of Accident Documentation
“Have witnesses write and sign statements,” advises Peterson. “Statements should be specific to conditions seen on the job site. Date and time are important. Include the witnesses in photos and video tape. Crew members should write out statements in their own words, stating specifically what they were doing at the time of the incident, and sign the statement. Pictures should document the presence at the site of crew members providing statements.”
Supplement this information with simple sketches and drawings.
If accuracy of existing utility locates is an issue, sketches and photos taken during the locating process and names of locator representatives involved should be included in the file, along with records and photos of any potholing. (For more about documenting preliminary planning steps that can be important for future accident investigations, see the January issue of Underground Construction.)
Incident information needs to be organized and accessible.
Company management should develop a form for gathering necessary data and a system for archiving all documentation. Forms available include the CGA Dirt form, NULCA investigation form or any other form that prompts the investigator to ask the right questions. The form should be approved by the firm’s attorney. A spreadsheet or other program can track downtime damage claims.
“Track all employee work time from the time of damage, including straight time, overtime and double time,” advises Peterson. “Log equipment time and additional equipment necessary because of damage. Additional materials needed because of the damage also should be documented.”
Peterson adds that downtime claims now are supported by case law in many parts of the country. These decisions have professionals responsible for information provided to others. Four recent court decisions support this section.
Photos are a key element in incident files. “A picture is worth a thousand words and can be worth thousands -- or tens or hundreds of thousands -- of dollars,” says Peterson. “It is impossible to take too many photos. Tell a story with photographs. Show the entire work location, and then move in closer toward the damage. Get detailed pictures of the damage from different camera locations. Get people in pictures: witnesses, company personnel, utility representatives, locators and get shots of their vehicles.”