A Guide to Incident Reporting in the Workplace

As a business or organisation, having an incident reporting procedure and an open communication culture that supports incident reporting is a critical element in upholding health and safety in the workplace.

In this article, we will discuss:

  • the legal definition of incident reporting; 
  • its benefits and goals;
  • the importance of incident reporting in the workplace;
  • the types of incidents that need to be reported;
  • how to write an effective incident report; and 
  • how to simplify incident reporting procedures.

Before we go further, we recommend downloading our free checklist and step-by-step guide to report incidents correctly.

incident reporting

Definition of an Incident Report

An incident report is an official recording of the facts related to an incident on the worksite. An incident is broadly defined as any event or accident that leads to personnel injury or damage to equipment or property. 

Incidents also include events or accidents that have the potential to cause harm, or in other words, near misses. 

The Importance of Incident Reporting in the Workplace?

Here are five reasons why it’s important to report incidents in the workplace and how it can benefit both employees and employers.

1) Prevent more serious accidents

Comprehensive incident reporting can help any business understand what is going wrong or could go wrong regarding workplace safety.

With these insights, an organisation can fix a health and safety issue before it becomes a bigger problem that can cause serious harm or damage to employees or property. As the old adage goes, a stitch in time saves nine.

2) Improve other health & safety measures in the workplace

You can think of incident reporting as something that can improve other health and safety measures in the workplace, such as risk assessments and reporting potential hazards

Even by complying with all the best risk assessments and hazard reporting procedures with due diligence, incidents can still happen. 

It’s like the “Swiss Cheese” model where each health and safety “layer” has its imperfections yet work together to collectively prevent accidents from “going through”.

Incident Reporting

However, when an accident or near miss does happen, it makes the management aware of how the “holes” of each “layer” (i.e. the health and safety procedures) have created a path for that incident. 

Giving this feedback through an incident report can help your company identify the weaknesses or blind spots in your current health and safety procedures as well as risk mitigation solutions. By having this information, you can take proactive steps to improve them.

3) Save time and resources

In their “Health and Safety at Work” 2020 summary statistics report in Great Britain, HSE reported:

  • £5.6 billion in annual costs of workplace injury in 2019. Estimates based on Labour Force Survey, RIDDOR and HSE Cost Model for 2017/18-2019/20
  • £16.2 billion in annual costs of work-related injury and new cases of ill health in 2018/19, excluding long-latency illness such as cancer.
  • 693,000 workers sustaining a nonfatal injury according to self-reports from the Labour Force Survey in 2019/20.
  • 65,427 employee non-fatal injuries reported by employers under RIDDOR in 2019/20.
  • 6.3 million estimated working days lost due to non-fatal workplace injuries according to self-reports from the Labour Force Survey in 2019/20.

Lost time and costs caused by injuries can be reduced with incident reporting because of how incident reporting can help prevent more serious accidents and improve workplace health and safety procedures.

4) Reporting incidents can protect companies

A lack of incident reporting doesn’t just put staff at huge risk. It puts companies at risk too. 

Companies in the UK can be penalised with fines and imprisonment if it is found that the incident was caused by a breach of the UK’s health and safety laws.

5) Boost overall well-being

As the cherry on top, having a healthy incident reporting culture in the workplace shows you are committed to your staff’s and customers’ safety, which can improve morale, teamwork, efficiency, productivity, and overall well-being of the organisation and its staff.

What are the Types of Incidents that Need Reporting?

Every organisation’s incident reporting procedure should record four types of incidents:

  1. Unexpected events

Any unexpected incident, accident, or situation that results in a serious psychological injury or non-fatal and fatal physical injuries to employees or damage to company property. Examples include but are not limited to slips, trips and falls, vehicle accidents, natural disasters, theft, and fire.

  1. Near misses

Any unexpected incident, accident, or situation that had the potential to cause harm to employees or damage to company property but no harm or damage occurred.

  1. Adverse events

These incidents relate to medicine, vaccines, and medical devices used to treat employees for a medical condition or situation. Any unintended harm caused by the commission of treatment or omission of procedure, instead of harm resulting from the existing disease or condition, must be reported as an incident.

  1. Awareness events

Any risks of potential incidents that can happen in the line of duty must be recorded and communicated to all employees to be aware of the risks and safety measures required to mitigate the risks. Employees must also be able to access these records so they can refer to them at any time.

Additionally, under the Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations 2013 (RIDDOR), employers must also report to the local authorities any RIDDOR reportable injuries.

In general, this regulation covers any work-related injury, illness, poisoning, and dangerous occurrences at work. Specifically, the types of RIDDOR reportable injuries and dangerous occurrences fall into the following categories:

  1. Non-fatal injuries to workers 
  2. Non-fatal injuries to non-workers
  3. Work-related fatalities
  4. Dangerous occurrences
  5. Occupational diseases
  6. Exposure to carcinogens, mutagens and biological agents
  7. Diseases offshore
  8. Gas-related injuries and hazards

For further details on RIDDOR reportable injuries and the procedures to report them, read our article, What is RIDDOR & How Important is it for UK Organisations?

When Do You Need to Report an Incident?

An internal incident report of near misses or unexpected, adverse or awareness events should be completed as soon as possible after the incident happens or within a reasonable time frame. 

By reasonable, it means those involved in or had witnessed the incident or event should still be able to recall the details of what happened with clarity to complete the incident report. As an employer, you may also stipulate a specific reporting time frame in your incident reporting procedures for your staff to adhere to.

On the other hand, RIDDOR reporting timescales will depend on the type of injury or accident. They can range from 10-15 days of the incident or upon receiving a diagnosis from a medical professional.

How to Write an Effective Incident Report

Before writing an incident report, it’s important to remember the objective of an incident report. Here’s a quick recap:

  1. To prevent more serious accidents
  2. To improve other health & safety measures in the workplace
  3. To save time and resources
  4. To protect the company
  5. To boost overall well-being of staff

When you keep the objectives in mind, it becomes easier to evaluate which details are relevant to be included in the report.

Next, it is best to create an incident report template that any employee can easily follow without missing out on important details.

To make things easier, we have prepared a template document, you can download it here.

incident report template

Your incident report template should include the following sections:

  • Type of incident (unexpected events, near misses, adverse events, awareness events)
  • Location
    • Specific location (e.g. 3rd-floor laboratory) 
    • Offsite location (provide the address and specific location)
  • Date and time of the incident
  • Name of the person(s) injured (or the names of the person(s) at risk in the case of a near miss)
  • Witness name(s)
  • Name of supervisor
  • Description of injuries (or the potential injuries that could have happened in the case of a near miss)
  • A detailed description of the incident covering:
    • Sequence of events
    • Results of the event
    • Observations of anything unusual before, during, or after the incident
    • Observations of safety equipment or procedures used
    • The affected or involved person(s) version of the events
    • Witness statements
  • A detailed description of the treatment after the incident, which may include:
    • The reasoning behind the decision to call or not call emergency services
    • How the injury (if any) was treated
    • How the area of the incident was controlled, cleaned up, or rectified
  • A post-analysis of the incident
    • The root cause(s) of the incident
    • Any health and safety breaches that may have contributed to the incident
    • The hazards identified 
    • How to remove the hazards or mitigate the risks
  • Photographs (if relevant and where possible)

Sample of an Incident Report

Here’s a sample of what an incident report could look like. 

Type of Incident:

Unexpected Event

Aisle F1 of Warehouse A
24 March 2021

Time: 11:20am
Name of Person(s) Injured or at Risk:

Barry Allen
Name(s) of Witness:

Iris West
Arthur Curry
Name of Supervisor:

Bruce Wayne
Description of injury and/or damage1) An employee got a concussion and took a 5-day medical leave.
2) Pallets and goods with an estimated value of $16,400 were damaged.
Description of incidentMr. Allen was loading the shelves at aisle F1 of Warehouse A with a forklift. That was when the pallet rack collapsed. The impact of the pallet racks and its contents falling on the forklift jolted him forward and caused a concussion.
Witness statementMs. West stated: I was in aisle G1 and heard a loud crash. I turned and saw the pallets crashing down on the forklift Barry was driving.

Mr. Curry stated: I was beside the forklift helping Barry to direct the loading. That’s when I noticed the top pallets were shaky, but before I could warn Barry, it came crashing down. I ran away in time. The falling boxes just missed me.
Treatment post-incidentMr. Allen was conscious and able to talk and walk, although he felt a little dizzy. Given his state, everyone decided it was not necessary to call an ambulance. Ms. West took Mr. Allen to the hospital, where he was diagnosed with a concussion and given 5 days medical leave.

The remaining employees in the warehouse carefully removed the rest of the pallets and damaged boxes at the site of the incident under the supervision of Mr. Wayne. After cleaning the area, they catalogued the items damaged and repacked the undamaged items for storage.
Post-analysis of incidentAfter investigation, it was found that the pallet racks at the top shelf were loaded with items heavier than the items below. This imbalance caused it to collapse. Although the warehouse policy is to stack and wrap heavy items below and lighter items on top, the procedure was not followed in this case.

The next steps include retraining the warehouse staff as well as tightening supervision and regular maintenance check of how safely and securely pallets are stacked.

When writing an incident report, keep these tips in mind:

  • Write in a third party voice except when quoting people.
  • Stick as closely as possible to stating the facts. 
  • Avoid writing emotional statements.
  • Avoid finding someone to blame and stay focused on the objective of workplace safety.
  • Include relevant details but write as concisely as possible.
  • Validate the report by getting everyone who was mentioned in the report to sign off to confirm the information is accurate.

Keeping an Incident Report Log Book

An incident log book is a secure, organised way to document your company's safety record. According to the HSE, an incident report log book or accident book is an essential document for employers and employees, who are required by law to record and report details of specified work-related injuries and incidents.

Other than fulfilling the legal requirement, there are a few other benefits of keeping an incident report log book accurate and up-to-date at all times:

  1. An employer can ensure that they are complying with safety regulations.
  2. An employer can demonstrate that they have done all they reasonably can to prevent injuries occurring in their workplace.
  3. An employee, especially an employee who is new on the job, can learn from past incidents and know how to avoid them.
  4. The management will have the data they need to be proactive in risk management.
  5. The company can improve how to respond to future incidents.

Streamlining the Process of Reporting and Recording Incidents

Many employees do not report or record incidents as they should. Usually, it’s because reporting and recording incidents can be an arduous, time-consuming process. 

To save time and inconvenience, many employees may prefer to forgo reporting incidents, especially if it’s a very minor incident or a near miss.

Thankfully, in today’s digitised world, creating incident reports and keeping its records in a log book is no longer a time-consuming nightmare of manual paperwork. This can encourage employees to comply with reporting and recording incidents, allowing all parties to reap the benefits of an incident reporting procedure. 

Digital solutions eliminate many problems associated with manual reporting and record-keeping. Here are just a few ways that our incident reporting system can streamline how you capture, manage, and report on safety incidents.

  1. Don’t miss out on any important details.
    With a step-by-step input, you won’t miss out on any important details needed in an effective incident report. Clear visual instructions and a tap and type input also make it very simple to use from any mobile device.
incident reporting
  1. Clean information and a clear log of who has contributed to the report

    Writing a handwritten report can be inconvenient. On top of that, it can end up being messy and there isn’t a clear record of who made the edits. With Protector, these issues disappear. 
incident reporting
  1. See the latest updates at a glance in real-time with a searchable function

It’s difficult to know the latest updates or find particular incidents with manual records. When everything is digitised, you can see incidents recorded in real-time across the organisation and easily search for any past incident. 

incident reporting
  1. Get the whole picture

Unlike manual records, you can get a quick overview of the whole incident with visual maps, photographs, and important details — saving you a lot of time.

incident reporting

Make Incident Reporting a Breeze in Your Organisation

If you’d like to discover how our incident reporting tool can make it easier to streamline incident reporting in your organisation, submit a contact form today to get a demo

Don’t forget to also take advantage of our free checklist and step-by-step guide on how to report incidents.

For a handy summary of this incident reporting guide, print out the infographic below and share it with others who can benefit from it too.

Incident Reporting

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