Incident reporting is integral to workplace safety. However, many organisations often struggle to do it efficiently and effectively.
When we talk with employees and managers from various industries, we often hear them complain about how their incident reporting is a haphazard process that takes up too much time, is prone to mistakes, and hampers productivity.
In this article, we will analyse some common ways we’ve seen organisations struggle with incident reporting through manual methods.
Then, we’ll identify some of the most common bottlenecks of a manual incident reporting process, discuss why they’re ineffective and how they compromise workplace safety.
The organisations we speak to typically have a small number of staff in the Health and Safety (H&S) team handling every incident or event their employees report manually over email or in person.
Here’s an overview of what their end-to-end incident reporting process can look like:
Physical Form & Email
Dedicated Email Address
In-person or phone reporting
Physical incident reporting forms are readily available for employees to take or access digitally and print.
Companies have a dedicated email address for reporting incidents. Employees will send an email to this address to report an incident.
An employee will call or report to the H&S team in person to report an incident. An H&S staff will give them the relevant incident reporting form(s) to fill out.
After filling out the form, the employee needs to scan it and email it to the H&S team.
The H&S team will email the appropriate incident reporting form(s) for the employee to fill out and email back.
The employee needs to fill out the form and hand it back to the H&S team.
If there are any photos or attachments, the employee will attach them to the email.
The employee will send any relevant photos via email or mobile messaging. Any relevant documents may be sent over email or submitted physically for the H&S team to make a copy.
The H&S team will then need to transfer all the information from multiple sources to spreadsheets and organise all relevant attachments in the system.
The H&S team will follow up on preventive and corrective actions in person, over the phone, or by email.
The H&S team will manually record every follow-up on the relevant incident reporting spreadsheet they manage.
Any safety report for higher management will be created manually by taking relevant data from the spreadsheet and summarising it for management reports.
The 10 common bottlenecks in manual incident reporting
We identified ten bottlenecks and inefficiencies in these common methods of reporting incidents and resolving corrective actions.
Here’s how they impact productivity, compromise workplace safety, and affect compliance with health and safety legislation:
Slow incident reporting process without real-time visibility It’s inconvenient for employees to either:
a) print, complete, scan, and email incident reports b) liaise back and forth with the H&S team over email or phone messaging, or c) meet a supervisor to get and submit the incident report form
Employees are more likely to delay or wait when they are free, such as at the end of their shift. These delays mean other managers or employees will not have real-time visibility of incidents that matter to them.
Processing incidents case by case can get overwhelming The H&S team needs to process every case manually. If many incidents happen over the span of a few days, the H&S team can quickly become overwhelmed by the amount of manual data entry and direct communication with multiple parties that they have to handle.
Higher chances of miscommunication or no access to information Without a central platform for reporting, communication, and tracking, it becomes easier for miscommunication to happen. Furthermore, if any of the people involved is on leave, the process can come to a halt because it is difficult for others to step in and find the correct information.
Higher chances of inaccurate reporting A delay in reporting an incident can lead to inaccuracies because the employees or witnesses involved may have forgotten important details or descriptions of the event.
Not reporting incidents When reporting an incident is time-consuming and gets in the way of an employee’s daily responsibilities, they are more likely not to submit a report. They’re even more likely not to report near misses or hazards as nobody got injured.
This tendency is reflected in an Accident Advice Helpline UK survey, which revealed that 1 in 6 respondents would not report the hazards they saw. The #1 reason for not submitting a report was “I don’t have the time.”
Higher chances of inaccurate recording or missing information These ways of reporting incidents require the H&S team to digitise the data from emails or scanned paper forms into a spreadsheet. During this process, there are higher chances of misrecording information due to negligence or because they struggle to read bad handwriting.
Slower response to issue a preventive or corrective action This process creates bottlenecks for the employee who needs to submit the report and the staff member who processes it. The double delay means it will take even longer before the appropriate preventive or corrective actions are assigned and executed.
Difficult to track, discuss, and quickly resolve preventive or corrective actions Since submitting and handling an incident is typically conducted directly between two parties, whether via email, phone messaging, in-person, or a combination of all three, nobody else in the company can easily access the information.
Furthermore, other employees usually cannot access the spreadsheet database of all incidents managed by the H&S team. So, if other employees were tasked with corrective actions, an H&S team member will need to email a copy of the incident report and any other relevant photos or documents.
This leaves the H&S staff as the middleman when tracking, discussing, or resolving preventive or corrective actions, adding even more unnecessary tasks to their full plate while slowing down the entire process due to multiple communication points.
Difficult to identify essential safety trends Being able to spot trends with incidents can help improve preventive actions. Trends of incidents could be linked to several factors, such as seasonal, time of day, location, use of a particular machinery, an employee, or a process. Finding trends when the data is recorded on paper or multiple emails is laborious.
Time-consuming to create safety reports for upper management Incident summary reports help management decide on what the organisation needs to invest in to improve workplace safety. Like finding trends, H&S staff will need to create reports manually by tabulating incident numbers according to location or other factors to meet their reporting needs.
The manual process is time-consuming, with a higher likelihood of missing out on important trends or data due to human error.
Impact on workplace productivity and safety
The ten bottlenecks we identified in these incident reporting processes impact workplace productivity and safety, as it leads to:
Higher chances of ineffective corrective actions due to delays in reporting, not being able to see incidents in real-time, no central platform for a seamless communication, and inaccuracies in reporting and recording incidents.
Greater risks of lawsuits or fines for non-compliance when employees are less likely to report incidents, near misses, or hazards because the process is too much of a hassle.
No real-time visibility of incidents or other events reported from a single platform.
Higher chances of potential new incidents. When multiple bottlenecks delay the closure of corrective and preventive actions, the hazards that caused the initial incident continue to put workers at risk of similar incidents happening again.
Burned out H&S staff because they have too many administrative tasks — leaving them with less time to focus on more important things such as improving health and safety procedures with industry best practices.
End-to-end Incident Management
Our goal is to help organisations frustrated by the inefficiencies caused by manual incident reporting processes.
The ideal solution should utilise a company’s H&S team skillset to elevate workplace safety and safety compliance instead of spending most of their time acting like data-entry secretaries and communication checkpoints.
We designed our incident reporting software to streamline incident reporting and management processes from a single platform.
Step 1: Capture Our software makes it easy for staff to report incidents, accidents and other events in real-time from their smartphone.
First, the H&S team can create custom fields and sections in the incident reporting template to ensure all relevant information is captured. Employees simply choose the incident reporting template in the mobile app, fill out the sections, and submit with one tap.
Employees can also take a photo with their phone and add it to their report. They can also add any other relevant files to the report.
With these features:
It’s easier for employees to report incidents, near miss events, or hazards very quickly, making it less likely for them to avoid reporting incidents.
The organisation improves the quality of their incident reports, because the on-the-spot mobile reporting, photo attachment, and file attachment features make it less likely to forget or miss out on important details.
The H&S team don’t have to input data from a scanned document onto a spreadsheet or organise multiple photos and files, shaving off hours of work a week from their plate and improving data accuracy.
Step 2: Investigate Through the mobile app or web access, the H&S team can easily create, track, and complete follow-up actions without ever needing to send an email.
Employees who have been assigned corrective actions will get an alert on their mobile. They will be able to see what they need to do and by when.
Employees will also have instant visibility of everything in the incident report, from initial observations through to discussions and photos without needing to go through the H&S team to get relevant information.
With a chat feature, employees can discuss issues or tasks with each other or their supervisors. Keeping these discussions within the incident report makes it easier to complete corrective tasks and minimises miscommunication.
Step 3: Take Action With a central platform, the H&S team is no longer the bottleneck in communication as the middle person, so effective corrective actions can be quickly resolved.
Any user can directly assign tasks to other employees if they need help to close the corrective action.
Employees don’t need to report back to the H&S team their progress via email because the team can see all discussions, actions taken, or tasks assigned to others via the app in real time.
The H&S team can use the dashboard view to quickly see which outstanding tasks need following up on to complete corrective actions quickly.
Step 4: Improve The organisation’s H&S team no longer needs to waste time manually searching for data when looking for trends or creating reports. With the intuitive dashboard and automated reporting system, the H&S team can now:
Easily spot trends by applying different view modes based on the factor they choose, such as location, employee, type of incident, date range, and so on.
Create summary reports for upper management with just a few clicks of the mouse.
Spend their time more productively analysing summary reports and trends to identify areas for improvement.
Make your incident reporting easier
If you can relate to the difficulties caused by a manual incident reporting process, then our EHS Incident Reporting Software can help you as it has helped many of our other clients.
Discover how our solution can be customised to make your incident reporting and management processes efficient and effective.