SafetyCulture Summit 2020

Incident Report Guide: All You Need To Know

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Published October 13th, 2020

What is an Incident Report?

An incident report is a tool that documents any event that may or may not have caused injuries to a person or damage to a company asset. It is used to capture injuries and accidents, near misses, property and equipment damage, health and safety issues, security breaches and misconducts in the worksite.

An incident report can be used in the investigation and analysis of an event. It includes the root cause and corrective actions to eliminate the risks involved and prevent similar future occurrences. Incident reports can also be used as safety documents that indicate potential risks and uncontrolled hazards found in the worksite.

An incident report can be used by:

  • an authority to create a report of an incident;
  • an employee to report an incident he/ she has witnessed;
  • a member of the organization to raise awareness about an incident that has occurred in the worksite.

Incident reporting is the process of documenting all worksite injuries, near misses, and accidents. An incident report should be completed at the time an incident occurs no matter how minor an injury is. This article covers an in-depth explanation of the incident reporting procedure and the types of events you should report.

incident report

3 Main Benefits of Incident Reporting at Work

Incident reporting has already been an established idea that is initially intended to promote and improve safety in the worksite. However, most of the employees still do not comply with this protocol. The management and their employees should know why incident reporting can not only improve an organization’s safety but also help the business to stand out from others and most importantly, can help create a sound and healthy working environment and culture for workers.

#1 Immediate Reinforcement of Actions

In an event when an incident happened at work, documenting and reporting the details to the management can induce the immediate and necessary measures to be taken. By doing this, worse situations and occurrences can be prevented. This also heightens the seriousness and gravity of any incident reminding all employees that these events should be reported whether big or small. Furthermore, taking action immediately also helps leaders and managers to magnify their responsibilities in ensuring a safer place for their employees.

#2 Hazards and Threats Communication and Awareness

Communicating threats, risks, and hazards to all concerned and affected employees in an organization help raise awareness of possible dangers that may come. Doing so will help leaders and supervisors to ensure preventive measures are in place in case things should go wrong. This could be an essential tool for industries in which tasks are associated with the highest risks such as the construction, manufacturing, mining industries, and even offices which are prone to accidents because of the potential hazards that can be overlooked. More so, getting to understand these hazards can enforce everyone to be more proactive in spotting these threats and resolve them immediately.

Possible threats could be:

  • High-risk jobs
  • Equipment and machine damages
  • Bad employee behavior (alcoholism, violence, sexual aggravation, bullying, etc)
  • Infectious diseases
  • Absence of proper PPE and controls
  • Non-compliance

#3 Continuous Improvement of Processes

An incident report provides a clear picture of what an organization should focus on resolving.  It also gives valuable insights into what processes need to be changed, improved, or eliminated. This also helps the management to implement new policies and regulations to be able to determine the efficacy of these changes to safety and quality. This could also mean critical assessments of whether the employees would need more skills training or better equipment provision.

What is the Difference Between a Police Report and an Incident Report?

These two terms are often perceived as of the same kind. However, the main difference falls on the one who completes it. Obviously, a police report is a detailed documentation of a crime written by an officer or any representative of a police department who was present at the crime scene. On the other hand, an incident report can be written by anyone, as mentioned above, who wants to report any events that might or might not have caused harm to someone or something. Police reports require an investigation to follow, while an incident report can be used as a supporting document to an investigation or analysis of events.

What is Considered an Incident?

Generally, an incident is defined as any event, condition, or situation which:

  • Causes disruption or interference to an organization;
  • Causes significant risks that could affect members within an organization;
  • Impacts on the systems and operation of worksites; and/ or
  • Attracts negative media attention or a negative profile for the worksite

When Should You Write an Incident Report?

The rule of thumb is that as soon as an incident occurs, an incident report should be completed. Minor injuries should be reported and taken as equally important as major injuries are. These injuries may get worse and lead to more serious injuries or health issues. Employers, managers, and safety officials should be aware of the different situations and events that should be reported.

Here are 4 types of incidents you should report:

  1. Sentinel events – these are unexpected occurrences that resulted in serious physical or psychological injury or death (e.g. slips, trips and falls, natural disasters, vehicle accidents, disease outbreak, etc.).
  • Employee injury incident
  • Environmental incident
  • Property damage incident
  • Vehicle incident
  • Fire incident
  1. Near misses – these are situations where the people involved had no injuries but could have been potentially harmed by the risks detected.
  2. Adverse events – related to medicine, vaccines, and medical devices. These events occur when an act of commission or omission harmed a patient rather than from the existing disease or condition.
  3. No harm events – these are incidents that need to be communicated across an organization to raise awareness of any harm that may happen.

How to Write an Incident Report

An incident report should state all the essential information about the accident or near-miss. It should contain the following key elements to ensure that all facts and necessary details are complete and properly documented. Take a look at some incident report samples here.

An incident report should be:

  1. Accurate
    All data must be clear and specific. Most inaccuracies are due to typos and simple grammar and spelling errors (e.g. incorrect details of names of people involved, date and time of the incident, contact numbers, etc.). Provide more specific details of what you are referring to and avoid any vague statements that may cause confusion. Lastly, always proofread your report before submission to see errors that you might have overlooked.
  2. Factual
    An incident report should be objective and supported by facts. Avoid including emotional, opinionated, and biased statements in the incident report. It should provide both sides of the story and should not favor one side. However, if there’s a need to include statements from witnesses or patients, make sure to quote them.
  3. Complete
    Ensure that all essential questions (what, where, when, why, and how) are covered in the incident report. Record not only the people who were injured and what caused the accident to happen, but also include details such as people who witnessed and reported the incident or those who will conduct an investigation. Anticipate what other significant details will be needed for any future study and investigation.
  4. Graphic
    Photos, diagrams, and illustrations should be included as supporting evidence. Take many photos of the injury, damage, and surrounding environment. This supplements the facts stated and provides more clarity to be easily understood by the recipient.
  5. Valid
    Upon completion, those who are involved in the incident (e.g. victim, witnesses, manager, reporter, etc.) should sign off to testify and validate all the information that was mentioned in the incident report. This confirms that the incident report is truthful and unquestionable.

9 Facts to Collect During Incident Reporting

Keeping your incident report factual would require you to know the different types of information that you can gather during the incident reporting process. Here’s a list of facts that would guide you during the documentation of an incident:

  • General information – the most fundamental information needed in an incident report such as specific location, time and date of the incident. This will also be a piece of valuable information if further investigation is needed. 
  • Setting or environment – pertains to physical and environmental conditions that may have contributed to the incident. This could also entail the potential hazards found in the area of the incident.
  • Affected people – the names of the people involved, their title or position, and their department.
  • Injuries and the severity – include the type of injury, its severity, and body parts that were injured.
  • Witnesses – pertains to statements of people present during the incident.
  • Administered treatment – includes the initial treatment, aid, or any medications given to the affected individuals. This information is essential to understand employee recovery and the like.
  • Property and equipment damages – pertain to certain assets, materials, facilities, and equipment that were damaged during the incident. 
  • Events – the story of the incident and the details why it turned out to be an incident.
  • Actions of people involved during the incident – the motion of the involved people at the exact time the incident occurred.

Incident Report Sample Format

The layout of information in an incident report form may vary depending on a number of factors. As a general rule, you should write incident reports in the third person since its purpose is to be objective; stating only facts and avoiding the inclusion of opinions and biases. Below is a sample incident reporting format you can use for your operations. It contains all the essential information you would need to include in order to complete an effective incident report:

  1. Introduction
    The first part of the incident report form covers the who, what, when, and where of the incident:
    – Include the names of all the people involved in the incident. If names are not available, you can instead cite the person’s role in relation to the incident e.g. the customer, the guest.
    – Summarize the incident itself in no more than three sentences e.g. a printer caught fire causing minimal damage to a room
    – Include the time and date of occurrence. An estimate works if the exact time could not be noted 
    – Note the location of the incident and be exact if possible e.g. the Mercato Conference Room, 19th floor Building A.
  2. Body
    This is where you lay out all of the incident’s details in a comprehensive manner. Talk about the incident from start to finish, ensuring details are laid out in chronological order to avoid confusion. Make sure to include the who, what, when, and where mentioned in the introduction when they are mentioned.
  3. Conclusion
    Was the incident resolved? How? If the incident was not resolved, explain why, and provide the steps that need to be taken in order to resolve it.
  4. Sign off
    Include the full name and signature of the incident report writer for accountability and record-keeping.

What to do After Completing an Incident Report?

The incident report should be submitted to an investigation team to further study and look for deeper causes. An investigation should be conducted by those who are competent in collecting and analyzing information and evidence gathered from the incident report. Those conducting the investigation should be knowledgeable in occupational health and safety fundamentals.

The purpose of investigating an incident is not to find fault but to determine the root cause and develop corrective actions to prevent similar incidents from happening. An investigation also helps fulfill regulatory requirements (such as OSHA 300 Forms in the United States) and determines the costs involved with property or equipment damage (if any).

Better Record Keeping of Incident Reports

Incident reports should be properly kept as they are an important record of every organization. Creating incident reports can be time-consuming and requires rigorous documentation of the incident. However, understanding the purpose of incident reporting will help the organization determine the root cause of an incident and set corrective measures to eliminate potential risks. iAuditor is the world’s #1 inspection app and can be used to streamline the completion and record-keeping of incident reports. With the iAuditor mobile app and web platform you can:

  • Perform paperless incident reports on your hand-held device
  • Take unlimited photo evidence attached to your incident reports
  • Gather witness statements using auto-dictation
  • Capture electronic signatures
  • Generate detailed incident reports without leaving the site
  • Unlimited secure cloud storage and easy record keeping of all incidents for regulatory purposes

Get started with iAuditor by downloading these top 10 incident report templates you can download and customize for free.

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Author

Carlo Sheen Escano

SafetyCulture staff writer

Carlo Sheen Escano is a contributing writer for SafetyCulture based in Makati City, Philippines. Sheen has experience in digital marketing and has been writing for SafetyCulture since 2018. His articles mainly discuss risks in the workplace and well-known safety and quality processes used to mitigate them. Furthermore, Sheen is passionate about providing insights to global customers on how technology can help them to do the best work of their lives.