Accidents happen. We often wish they didn’t, especially if we’re somehow involved or responsible, but it’s a fact of life.
Consequently, a part of running a business is preparing for this eventuality and ensuring you’re ready to take the steps necessary to solve the issue and prevent anything similar from happening in the future.
And that’s exactly why you need to know how to write an incident report.
In this article, we’ll explore everything you need to know about incident reports, including what they are, why they matter, how best to write them, and more.
So, without further ado, let’s get right into it.
What Is an Incident Report?
An incident report is a document that details any type of incident (injury, illness, close call, etc.) that occurred in the workplace, no matter how minor or severe.
An incident report should be completed immediately after an accident and include all relevant details.
Here’s what you should include on an incident report:
What: details of the injury sustained + equipment involved
Who: name, position, and contact information of the employee(s) involved
When: specific time of the incident
Where: place where the accident took place
How: the actions an employee took that lead to the accident
Why Should You Write Incident Reports?
There are several reasons why writing incident reports is not only good but necessary. Below, you’ll find the 4 most common reasons why you should write incident reports.
Legal Obligation: Generally speaking, businesses are required by law to write and submit incident reports about all accidents in their workplace. The specific information you must include can vary by federal and provincial legislation, so it’s always a good idea to check your local government website for more information.
Information Accessibility: When an incident leads to legal or financial claims, having your facts straight is vital. Investigators need accurate information to research the case successfully, and the documentation can be used in subsequent legal proceedings.
Accountability: In the same vein as information accessibility, incident reports are useful because they can help establish faults in the company’s or employee’s conduct, which is a deciding factor in lawsuits and granting or refusing insurance claims.
Prevention: Whether it was an equipment malfunction, incorrect work process, insufficient safety marking, or otherwise, you need to be able to correctly establish what went wrong in any accident to seek corrective action and prevent similar occurrences in the future.
How to Write an Incident Report
Despite the title of this section, writing an incident report is a fairly self-explanatory task. The challenge lies in creating the processes for responding to an accident, designing the incident report itself, and taking action to remove hazards and prevent injuries or illnesses.
And that’s what we’re going to discuss now.
Step 1) Develop an Incident Response Plan
Preparation is key in incident prevention. If none of your employees have suffered an injury on the job so far, that doesn’t mean they won’t in the future, either. And so, it’s only logical that you should prepare a set of procedures to deploy when that eventuality comes. Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you get started.
1) Define Your Goals: It might be obvious, but any plan needs a clear-cut goal. Just because you understand what you’re doing and why doesn’t mean the people that come after you will too. Your goal can vary according to your company’s specificities, but a good example of an incident response plan goal is:
“Respond to incidents in the workplace in a timely manner to help minimize injuries and damages, catalog the incident, and prevent similar situations in the future by removing hazards, adding protective measures, and training employees.”
2) Specify Scope: The next thing you should do in terms of developing your incident response plan is to specify the scope, or in other words, define the people, tools, and processes involved. This will help you not lose focus and solve any issues as efficiently as possible.
3) Choose Capable Stakeholders: Involving everyone at every stage of your incident response only creates confusion and can cause further damage down the line. To ensure your employees get the help they need and the incident is investigated accordingly, task each of your selected incident response team members with specific aspects of the process. This can include:
treating and debriefing the affected employee
assessing the location where the accident took place
gathering the contact information of the victims and witnesses
writing the incident report
investigating the incident
brainstorming and designing safety measures to prevent future injuries
Step 2) Design Your Incident Report
While the design of your incident report may seem like a superficial issue, it’s anything but that. Creating a concise and legible form that’s easy to fill out takes some careful consideration and skill. However, it’s well worth it in the end, as any mistakes in the filling-out process can cause a variety of issues down the line, be it in insurance claims, lawsuits, or otherwise. So, let’s see how to do it right.
1) Choose Your Media: Consider whether you want to use paper-based media or a digital option for your incident report. While paper may be easy to come by and is relatively inexpensive, it comes with its fair share of limitations. It’s easily damaged or lost and requires a lot of effort to distribute, track, and evaluate.
2) Choose a Clear Design Philosophy: As we mentioned, legibility is everything when it comes to incident reports. They should be easy to fill out by literally anyone in your company in case the responsible person is unavailable or in field service situations.
But they should also be easy to read and understand so that everyone, from your employees, to your investigators, lawyers, and judges, can quickly glean all the information they need. Here are a few design tips that can help with that.
organize all your information in clearly defined boxes
color-code sections of the incident report for improved readability
add icons to section to quickly communicate the subject matter
include a branded header for recognition, insurance claims, etc.
use your brand colors to strengthen brand recognition
Step 3) Write the Incident Report
So, an incident occurred at your facility. Your processes are in place, and your incident report is designed and ready. The next steps are straightforward. Or are they? Here’s what you should do during the process of filling out an incident report.
1) Immediately Start Gathering Facts: As soon as an incident occurs and you’ve ensured that the employee is safe and sound, it’s time to begin the investigation. First, you’ll want to interview the employee and any witnesses for details of what happened. Then, assess the place of the incident.
2) Assess Your Findings: Any accident is the result of multiple factors working in tandem. To fully understand what happened and prevent it in the future, you’ll need to divide your findings into three separate types.
a) Primary Factors: These are the factors that were directly responsible for the accident or injury. They can include a machine malfunction, employee carelessness, or otherwise.
b) Secondary Factors: These are not the root cause of the incident, but still strongly contributed to its occurrence. They can include poor machine maintenance, lack of employee training, and more.
c) Contributing Factors: These may not be clearly linked to the incident, or their influence may seem negligible. Nevertheless, it’s important to take them into account. They can include wet floors, a burned-out lightbulb, a lack of communication between departments, and more.
3) Develop a Plan of Action: Take everything you learned into consideration and gather your team. Your task now is to brainstorm and find safety measures and solutions that will help you prevent similar incidents in the future.
4) Write the Incident Report: At this point, you finally have everything you need to complete your incident report. Be sure to dutifully fill it out, log it in your filing system, and deliver it to any relevant organizations (i.e., insurance companies).
5) Deploy Action Plan: Now, all that’s left to do is dive deep into preparing the prevention measures you brainstormed in the previous steps. Continue improving your workplace’s safety, double-check your processes often, and make sure to revisit your incident reports regularly, to ensure they work well.
And there you have it. As you’ve had the chance to see throughout this article, incident reports play a vital role in ensuring your employee’s safety, and your companies’ financial and reputational health.
Remember to pay due attention to how you approach workplace incidents, be mindful of the effect your incident reports’ media and design have on their usefulness, and never disregard finding new, innovative ways to improve your health and safety.