Incident Reporting In The Workplace: A Step By Step Guide

Incident Reporting In The Workplace: A Step By Step Guide

So you’ve encountered an incident in the workplace? The initial response is usually one of panic, but an incident reporting system and response plan can help ease that sense of stress. There’s a few things that you are required to do in order to make sure that the incident is reported quickly and accurately, however a surprising amount of businesses get this wrong.

Ultimately, reporting an incident properly can be the difference between making a major legal error and conducting yourself properly. It’s essential that you know how to deal with an incident at work and educate your team to respond properly.

To help you out, we’ve put together a step by step guide to incident reporting to keep you on track the next time something happens on site.

What are the four main types of incidents?

People often think that an incident has to be a big, catastrophic event. This isn’t the case. Incidents can also refer to the events where nothing much happens but they are indicative of a bigger problem that could lead to incidents in the future.

The four main types of incidents are:

  • Near misses
    Situations where people could have been injured, but, luckily nothing came to pass.
  • No harm events
    Operational risks that all staff across an organization should be made aware of.
  • Adverse events
    Adverse events are related to medicines, medical devices, and vaccines.
  • Sentinel events
    Sentinel events are unexpected events that result in any type of harm

1. Take action

As soon as an incident happens, the natural reaction is for people to panic. To quell this response, it can be helpful to have allocated team members who take responsibility for acting in the event of an emergency.

This action might be anything that is necessary to minimise damage – be it calling emergency services, getting medical attention or containing spills or leaks as much as possible. Whatever the incident – it is important that appropriate action is taken straight away.

2. Report the incident

The next step is arguably the most important and ‘official’ of all the steps and ensures that the immediate manager and any authorities are informed about the incident. You need to make sure that it is immediately reported so that people can remain protected from any knock-on damage that might occur. 

An incident report will likely also include reporting the incident to the applicable authorities in order to act in like with statutory requirements. It is essential that the following are reported to authorities by law:

  • Fatalities
  • Injuries that require hospitalisation
  • People exposed to chemicals
  • Major spills or environmental hazard

3. Ensure the incident documentation is safe

Once you’ve reported the incident in the most effective and legal way, the next stage is to make sure that the documents are kept safe.

This is where an incident reporting system comes into play in order to store and manage all documents associated with the incident. All documents should be stored in a secured centralized repository as opposed to the usual paper-based safety statement that many businesses still use.

Paper-based reporting systems can cause administrative issues for medium-sized businesses and make it impossible for businesses to report incidents as they occur. With a paper-based approach, the onus is on employees to complete this work and any lapse could result in significant fines and/or legal wrongdoing.

4. Investigation – assess root causes

After looking at prevention and how to better report incidents and manage them in the short term, it is essential that your business looks at the root causes and carries out investigation.

The idea behind root cause analysis is to identify any underlying issues that might cause further problems in the future.

Once you’ve assessed the root cause, you can then effectively 

5. Develop corrective actions

Incident reporting can be categorised into lagging actions and leading actions. The lagging actions refer to the times when an event happens and the response lags behind, whereas the leading actions ensure that you are one step ahead and are prepared for the next incident when it happens. Corrective actions look at what could have been done better in order to pre-empt and protect against the next incident.

Lagging actions are:

  • Near-misses – events where no actual harm occurred.
  • Accidents resulting in personal injury
  • Equipment or property damage

These are all examples of lagging indicators – you’re looking in the rear-view mirror, reporting what happened and seeing what you can learn from it.

Leading actions are:

  • Safety walkthroughs – you can study the length and frequency of walkthroughs.
  • Training effectiveness and the frequency that training takes place.
  • Management safety meetings and the frequency with which they occur.

Leading indicators are more like looking out of the windshield and seeing what problems could arise. Some organizations view near-misses as leading indicators, although they are events that happened and just didn’t lead to actual harm or injury. 

In the event of an incident, many businesses report in hindsight and then forget all about it. This doesn’t allow the incident to be investigated and worked upon in order to refine a better response.

Looking at the corrective actions that could be taken to better predict and prevent these kinds of incidents occurring is an essential part of an incident reporting process.

What Next?

Incident reporting is the first step in a much longer process. Reporting is usually thought of as what happens after an accident, dangerous condition, injury or near-miss has taken place. However, the real challenges begin once you start looking at why the incident occurred and assess what can be done to prevent these incidents in the future.

To help you with this, an incident reporting system is one of the best ways to stay on top of all workplace incidents and make it easier for your people to report accurately.

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