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Digging Deeper – an aMAZEing Time

- September 20, 2018 by Leslie Stoll, CSP, ARM (View all posts by Leslie)

Accident investigation is key to preventing future incidents. In my blogs, I discussed the red flags of an incomplete investigation and the importance of digging deeper during an investigation to find the real cause. Now, I’ll put those ideas into practice by digging deeper into an accident that I was involved in.

While walking through one of the many Illinois Corn Mazes last weekend, I was ambushed from above and hit in the head by falling ears of corn. Lets take a minute to investigate this incident. First, we need to remember that the purpose of completing an accident investigation is to determine ways to prevent the incident from reoccurring.

The simplest question is “What did I do wrong?”

  1. I wasn’t wearing a hard hat while in the maze
  2. I should have been paying more attention to my surrounding
But is that the right question to ask?

Imagine if the investigation stopped here – I would be disciplined for not paying attention and not wearing a hard hat.  The question  “What did I do wrong?” did not lead us the root cause.  Sure, requiring hard hats could reduce the chance of being struck by corn but it’s unrealistic expectation and personal protective equipment is never the best solution.  Sure, I could have been aware of my surroundings, but I was trying to get out of a corn maze and I was paying attention to my task at hand.

“Why did I get hit in the head by an ear of corn?” –  is a much better question because it looks at outside sources and not just the injured person.

Since the corn came from above and there were no giant stalks of corn looming over me we can conclude that someone or something propelled the corn in my direction.

Digging deeper we found:

  1. Shortly before the incident, a bus full of junior high school kids arrived at the corn maze.
  2. The farmer allows kids to roam the maze unescorted and unsupervised.
  3. There were a lot of ears of corn on the ground and on the stalks.
  4. The supervisory staff at the maze did not have a procedure in place to clean up the ears on the ground.
  5. The supervisory staff did not increase their supervision in the maze when the bus load of kids arrived.
  6. The supervisory staff was not trained in the importance of enforcing safety rules and correcting safety hazards.
  7. There were no audits of the supervisory staff and system to provide feedback to the supervisory staff on their job performance.

After we finished digging deeper, we can take this information back to the corn maze management team with our suggestions to prevent future head injuries in the corn maze:

  1. Provide better training to corn maze supervisors on safety enforcement.
  2. Continually clean up corn that has fallen on the ground to remove any potential “weapons.”
  3. Add or increase adult supervision in the corn maze for school field trips.

Other investigators may draw a different conclusion. Happy fall, everyone!