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Industrial accidents: the role of scientific expertise for prevention

22 July 2020

Article by Francisco Castro, researcher in the area of accident dynamics at INEGI.

The collapse of a crane, the leakage of dangerous substances or the rupture of part of a machine. Accidents have always been and will always be part of human activities, whether private or professional, such as industrial ones. People make mistakes and equipment fail, it is true, but accidents should not be seen as random events, impossible to avoid, but the result of the convergence of several causes that trigger them.

Unforeseen and unwanted, accidents are complex events with multiple causes, direct and indirect, which is why their investigation requires a structured and methodical approach to the collection and analysis of relevant information.

The investigation of accidents and scientific expertise determines not only what happened, but also how and why, and the findings of the investigation can form the basis of the action plan to prevent the incident from occurring again and to define corrective actions.

Understanding an accident today is preventing another tomorrow

The reconstruction or computational simulation of the accident, the dynamic multi-body analysis, and expertise in industrial equipment and machinery are some of the tools available to investigate the causes of accidents, whether they involve structures, industrial machines, vehicles or even work accidents.

More recently, the team of consultants from INEGI has been investing in topographic and virtual / augmented reality research, through the use of drones and laser scanners and multimedia equipment, and dynamics, using animation by appropriate software, in order to recreate with greater fidelity and help to understand the casualness nexus of the occurrences.

The use of digital tools to characterize the accident scenarios may soon make it possible to revisit the accident site through immersive virtual reality techniques. This is also one of the bets of the INEGI's Accident Investigation Center (CENPERCA).

The experience acquired at CENPERCA, which to date has carried out more than 290 investigations, involving researchers from the Security Forces (PSP and GNR) and organic units from the University of Porto, allows us to affirm that the information collected in the expert investigations is of great importance scientific and essential for the prevention of new accidents.

Based on the resulting reports, it becomes possible to redefine safety procedures, implement new predictive equipment maintenance programs, redesign training for employees, among other actions.

Accident investigation is a reactive action - obviously, it would be preferable to prevent the accident from occurring at all - but it has its benefits. Essentially, by reacting to an accident, investigating its anatomy, we are preventing another. That is why companies should also see this event as an opportunity.

The advent of industry 4.0 and the autonomous driving of vehicles also represents the advent of new risks, which will surely pose to CENPERCA new challenges, for which we are already preparing.

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