How to proactively manage incidents and maintain continuous operations
Published 5 Dec 2022
Incident management is the process of identifying and analyzing hazards and risks in order to come up with effective mitigation and controls that intend to limit incidents’ disruption to operations, minimize negative impact, and prevent recurrence.
In this article we will discuss how incident is different from near-miss and accident; what is an incident management system; what are the steps in incident management; and how to improve incident management. We will also feature some tools and reporting templates that can help improve and effectively implement incident management.
The terms are used interchangeably in some industries and all are caused by unwanted events. There are differences, however, according to OSHA and in the context of workplace safety.
Sometimes called a dangerous occurrence, a near-miss is an unplanned event that did not result in bodily harm, illness, fatality, or destruction of property but had the potential to do so. Reporting all near-misses that take place in the workplace is crucial in helping operations fine tune processes and eliminate or mitigate risks.
Near-misses that are reported with all the relevant information can also aid safety officers in formulating safety precautions that can address previously unforeseen hazards and prevent the recurrence of near-misses and avoid more damaging incidents or accidents.
Report instances of near-miss using near-miss report forms like this template that can be downloaded for free on mobile or used as a PDF. Indicate if a near-miss requires a pause in operations or should continue business as usual. The information included on near-miss reports should provide clarity on the event and help prevent its recurrence.
An incident is an undesired event that disrupts operations and hinders the completion of tasks. Incidents can also be potentially destructive events but, like near-miss, has not resulted in injury, death, or property damage. The occurrence of an incident may introduce hazards or risks to a business and its employees and negatively impact the organization. Inaction and failure to report or investigate incidents may result in its recurrence and lead to more serious repercussions.
It is worth noting that there are jurisdictions and organizations where near-miss and incident mean the same.
Incident templates can help guide those who report incidents on what information to provide to help better understand the cause of an incident. Use this incident investigation template to provide information on contributing factors that may have led to the incident so that preventive measures can be determined by safety officers.
Unlike an incident or near-miss, an accident is an unexpected and undesired event that resulted in physical injury, illness, fatality, or property damage. Accidents and incidents are sometimes considered to mean the same thing but a distinction can be made based on their causes.
Accidents are random events that could not have been prevented, with no intended preventive measures put in place to mitigate or avoid its occurrence. Incidents, on the other hand, are considered “predictable and could have been prevented if the right actions were taken.”
Considering that accidents are always harmful, destructive, and negatively impact operations, actions should be taken to avoid the recurrence of accidents. Use this accident investigation report template to provide all pertinent information surrounding an accident and be able to include photos for better context. Instantly submit the result of the accident investigation and assign corrective actions that can be tracked until completion. Determine the root cause of an accident using the collected information and come up with measures to prevent it from happening again.
An incident management system is the effective and systematic use of all resources available to an organization in order to respond to an incident, mitigate its impact, and understand its cause in order to prevent recurrence. It’s a combination of people’s efforts in utilizing processes and tools to manage incidents.
This involves not only the company’s safety officers but all employees and stakeholders. In order to respond to an incident, the incident needs to be made known or reported first. Anyone in the organization who experienced or witnessed an incident should immediately report it to the proper authority in order to get the appropriate response and for the incident to be properly documented.
The incident management process involves the following steps to be followed whenever an incident occurs: incident reporting, corrective action, investigation and analysis, and incident closure. These steps are explained further in the next section for the incident management process.
This includes incident reporting tools like an incident report form, incident management checklist, or an incident report app that helps immediately capture incident details and assign corrective action for swift response.
Incident Management Checklist
Incident management is an ongoing round-the-clock responsibility that entails vigilance in following the right steps in order to keep the workplace safe from identified risks. Here are basic incident management steps that can be implemented in the workplace.
The vital first step in incident management that makes an incident known and prompts corresponding action is incident reporting. All information that can contribute to understanding the incident should be collected and reported immediately.
When gathering information for an incident report, the person responsible for reporting should ask for the following:
The incident report can also include photos to help provide better context on the type and severity of the incident.
Incidents that result in property damage should be reported to insurers in a timely manner in order to avoid delays or possible rejection of claims due to late reporting.
Timeliness of incident reporting is essential as OSHA requires all employers to report an incident within 8 hours if it resulted in employee fatality or within 24 hours if an employee got severely injured. Severely injured meaning in-patient hospitalization, amputation, or eye loss.
Provide the following information when contacting OSHA: business name; names of employees affected; location and time of the incident, brief description of the incident; contact person and phone number.
Because incidents in the workplace were anticipated based on identified risks, corresponding corrective actions should be applied to mitigate the negative impact of incidents and prevent recurrence. Corrective actions are ideally monitored to ensure that they are completed and that the desired outcome is achieved.
To maintain smooth operations and workplace safety, known risks and hazards are kept in check by implementing controls that either eliminate the possibility of occurrence of incidents or mitigate their impact. If an incident does occur and it happens to be moderately impactful to the business or severe in nature, an investigation is required to gather more information that will be analyzed in order to get to the root cause of the incident and come up with better controls to be implemented.
Conducting a root cause analysis or following the CAPA process can help uncover possible safety gaps and get to the primary cause of an incident and implement more proactive controls.
An incident investigation may entail the gathering of personal data of the people involved in the incident as well as sensitive information from documents, photos, and other media that can help provide a better understanding of the sequence of events that led to the incident. Using trusted tools with access to secure data storage can help maintain the privacy of information and compliance with industry standards.
The final step is incident report closure after checking if previous steps have been completed. Incident closure helps verify if the root cause of the incident has been determined, corrective actions were completed, and if learnings were applied to improve processes in order to continuously fine tune safety measures in the workplace.
Using the steps above, we created an example scenario below to better illustrate the incident management process in action:
What type of incident happened?
An employee burned his hand while using a blowtorch.
Who are the people involved?
Aside from the affected employee, two of his coworkers were also present and had to stop work to call for aid.
Where did the incident occur?
The incident occured in the welding area of the facility.
When did the incident happen?
The incident occurred at 2:08 pm on February 18, 2022 (Friday).
How severe is the incident? And, if possible, provide what caused the incident.
The incident had severe consequences. The affected employee received third-degree burns and thus had to be hospitalized. It’s expected that he won’t be able to return to work for another month or so. The suspected reason for this incident is the lack of appropriate Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). The affected employee was also distracted by a notification from his phone (it was set to automatically emit a white flash of light whenever a notification is received). This distraction resulted in longer exposure to the flame. If exposure had been shorter, it’s possible that the affected employee would have received only second-degree burns.
Using the scenario above, the following are corrective actions that were decided on to implement to mitigate the negative effects of the incident:
Afterwards, a full incident investigation was conducted with the primary investigator performing a root cause analysis and the secondary investigator following a CAPA process to prevent further incidents from occurring.
Once the sequence of events that led to the incident has been investigated, the final step is providing a closure statement. Using the same example scenario, the incident closure states:
With evolving risks and hazards, incident management doesn’t end with completing incident management steps. Incident management needs continuous improvement and here are some tips on how to do that:
Establish a workflow that enables businesses to addresses crucial areas of incident management, seamlessly. These areas include capabilities such as incident identification, assessment, and reporting, effective communication, assignment to the right personnel, and real-time information monitoring. The main goal is to be able to respond to incidents and provide the correct solutions efficiently.
Emphasize the importance of assessing incidents and categorizing them according to the level of urgency. This ensures that critical mishaps that can significantly impact or cause disruption to business processes are addressed first and solved as quickly as possible.
To make sure that the management and safety officers are aware if incidents occur in the workplace and that the right actions are being taken, incidents need to be reported first. Ensure timely incident reporting by making it easier to collect information and submit incident reports. A safety app like SafetyCulture (formerly iAuditor) makes it easier to capture information and submit incident reports anytime, anywhere using mobile devices.
Corrective actions need to be monitored to help ensure that the right steps are taken and the intended results are reached. Persons responsible for completing corrective actions can provide feedback or status updates in real-time using SafetyCulture, making actions a collaborative effort in managing incidents.
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There is a need for periodic refresher training on safety and processes as industry standards and regulations evolve over time to cope with new safety risks and hazards. Reinforce safe practices by conducting training that address gaps discovered during analysis of incidents. Utilize training tools like EdApp that features training materials designed to save time for both employees and management.
From efficient incident reporting to in-depth investigation and analysis, SafetyCulture (iAuditor) is a safety software you can use as a tool to help implement effective incident management and keep your business safe and running smoothly.
Available on Android, iOS, and the web, SafetyCulture is a customizable mobile safety and inspection app mainly used to improve and maintain safety and quality in numerous industries. SafetyCulture offers a number of ready-to-use quality and safety templates, as well as tools that can be used by organizations where Incident Management is crucial in maintaining safety and compliance with regulations and industry standards.
Erick Brent Francisco
Erick Brent Francisco is a content writer and researcher for SafetyCulture since 2018. As a content specialist, he is interested in learning and sharing how technology can improve work processes and workplace safety. His experience in logistics, banking and financial services, and retail helps enrich the quality of information in his articles.
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