Incident Report Guide: All You Need To Know

Published 28 Jun 2022

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.

Incident report checklist Incident investigation template
Incident report template Staff incident report template

What is the Purpose of Incident Reporting?

The purpose of incident reporting is to record an incident, determine its possible cause, document any actions taken, and make it known to stakeholders. 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;
  • a worker to report an incident he/ she has witnessed;
  • any 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.

Top 3 Benefits

Incident reporting has already been an established idea that is initially intended to promote and improve safety in the worksite. However, most of the workers still do not comply with this protocol. The management and their workers 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 the event when an incident happened at work, documenting and reporting the details to the management can induce 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 workers 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 workers.

#2 Hazards and Threats Communication and Awareness

Communicating threats, risks, and hazards to all concerned and affected workers 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 workers would need more skills training or better equipment provision.

Incident Report Training

Incident report training is a series of practical lessons to help employees develop skills for proper incident reporting. Adequate training can empower workers to report and respond to all incidents immediately, aiding in their quick resolution and subsequent investigation. Typical incident reporting training includes what is considered a reportable event, how to create a good incident report, and what details need to be documented.

For example, this free accident and incident investigation course contains:

  • Why accident and incidents should be investigated and the parties who need to know when they happen
  • Things that an investigator should consider or avoid for effective investigations
  • What to do after witnessing or being involved in workplace incidents and the specific information to remember
  • Best practices for gathering statements from witnesses or related parties during an incident investigation
  • Accident causation, the different stages of evaluating incidents, and deeper investigation to identify the root cause
  • Meaningful recommendations and actions to prevent incidents from recurring
  • A refresher lesson to gauge learners’ understanding of investigating accidents and incidents

Difference From a Police 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 to Write

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.).
  • Worker 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 do you 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 examples 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.

What to Include

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 of 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


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 an example 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.

Create Your Own Incident Report Checklist

Automate workflows and streamline operations with this checklist today.

Incident Report Sample Walkthrough: A Step-by-Step Guide

Now that we have an idea of what information should be included in an incident report, here’s a sample walkthrough through an incident report PDF sample that we prepared to give you a clearer picture of how you can create an effective incident report.

Scenario: In one of the warehouses of a manufacturing company in Blaxland, at around 10:30 AM, a forklift was reported to have bumped into crates.

Step 1: Provide Fundamental Information

Following the outline of an incident report form, the first thing you would want to collect are the fundamental information. You can do this by answering the following questions:

  • What type of injury was caused, if any? Was it fatal or non-fatal?
  • Was there any property damage?
  • When and where did it take place?
  • What task was being done at the time when the incident occurred?
  • What was the environment like?

Using the scenario above, the first section of your report would begin to look something like this:

In our incident report example, we took advantage of adding photo evidence to better illustrate the environment where the incident took place. Notice that the photo attached had an annotation. Annotating gives the reader(s) of your report a clearer idea of what to look at. It is helpful in cases where the area of the incident is wide and contains a lot of elements.

Step 2: Take Note of Any Damages and Injuries

The next thing you would want to do is to determine the results of the said incident. Did it cause any damage or injure anyone? If so, you should describe it in detail and if appropriate, provide photo evidence of the damage.

Continuing with the scenario, it was determined that the incident caused injury to one of the employees. According to the company’s physician, the injury obtained might only be muscle bruising. However, under the physician’s orders, the injured employee underwent other medical tests to determine other possible injuries. Using this information, you can then include it in the report like this:

Step 3: Identify Affected Individual(s)

Provide the names of the people involved along with their job details such as title, shift arrangement, and other relevant information. Using the same example, the individual who obtained the injury, Samuel, is taken note of along with his job details in the incident report.

Step 4: Identify Witnesses and Take Their Statements

Record the names of people present during the incident and gather their statements. These will be valuable in understanding the sequence of events that led to the incident and may even provide you a better insight into whether or not the behavior of the affected employees was a factor that contributed to the injury or damage. Witnesses’ statements can be noted verbatim or paraphrased. Remember to have the witnesses sign off on their statements to verify the accuracy of what has been recorded.

Continuing with the given scenario, it was determined that another employee was with Samuel when the incident occurred. His name and statement are included in the report and he is asked to sign off to attest that everything he said wasn’t hearsay.

Step 5: Take Action

This refers to the actions that should be taken after the incident. It includes corrective actions that will eliminate recurrence of the incident. The corrective actions section of your incident report can also include the actions that you need to take in order to complete the report.

For example, in the scenario, in Bradley’s statement (the witness), it was discovered that the incident may have occurred due to Samuel’s (the injured employee) failure to perform a pre-start inspection of the forklift before operation. To verify this, you may assign members of your organization to check security footage and maintenance records of the forklift used. With that, the report would look something like this:

Step 6: Close Your Report

Upon completion of the previous sections, you may collect management’s comments on the incident. For accountability measures, you, as the reporter, and someone from upper management should sign off. This will validate that the information stated in the incident report is truthful and unquestionable.

Following the same sample scenario, the incident report will then look like this:

Incident Report Requirements: What to Do After

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 Reporting of Injuries, Diseases, and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations 2013 (RIDDOR) in the UK and determines the costs involved with property or equipment damage (if any).

Incident Reporting Software for Better Recordkeeping

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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SafetyCulture staff writer

Carlo Sheen Escano

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.

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.