How to Train Employees to Identify and Report Incidents

Nothing is more important than the safety of employees. A critical component of keeping them safe is having an effective near miss and incident reporting system.

However, not all incidents or near misses are reported. Employees may not report these events for various reasons like fear of getting reprimanded, finding the reporting process too cumbersome, not knowing how to report it, or simply assuming it’s not important enough to report. 

Training your employees to report these events can help improve workplace safety and save lives. 

incident reporting

In this article, we’ll cover how to train your employees to understand the importance of identifying and reporting near misses and incidents—plus how to motivate them to do so.

Step 1: Ensure Your Employees Understand the Terminology

There is often a lot of confusion between a near miss and an incident. 

Here are the definitions of each terminology to make sure all your employees are on the same page.

What is a Near Miss?

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) defines a near miss as an unplanned event that did not result in any harm, injury, illness, or damage but had the potential to do so. The term ‘near miss’ also includes ‘dangerous occurrences’ as defined in the Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations 2013 (RIDDOR).

Other colloquial terms for a near miss include a near hit, close call, close shave, narrow miss, or lucky escape. The term “near miss” essentially means that even though the event “missed” causing any harm or damage, it very nearly did. 

Many people get confused and think that a near miss is not an incident because it did not cause any injuries or damage when in fact, a near miss is a type of incident. 

What is an Incident?

HSE has broadly defined an incident as any unplanned event or accident that leads to personnel injury or illness or damage to equipment or property, or has the potential to do so (which is a near miss).

There are four types of incidents. The first one, as we have already covered, is a near miss. The other three are unexpected events, adverse events, and awareness events.

  1. Unexpected events are any unplanned series of events or situations that lead to a serious psychological injury, non-fatal or fatal physical injuries, or damage to company property.
  1. An adverse event is any unintended harm caused by treating employees for a medical condition with medicine, vaccines, and medical devices. In simple terms, adverse events are side effects resulting from medical treatment. Adverse events can also be any unintended harm caused by the omission of procedure or treatment of a condition. 
  1. Awareness events are any risks of potential incidents. This includes hazard reporting. Any potential risk or hazards must be recorded, and employees must be able to access these records so each employee is aware of the potential incidents that can happen. This allows them to take the necessary precautions to mitigate the risks. 

Step 2: Communicate the Importance of Reporting Near Misses and Incidents

Once your employees understand the definitions of each type of incident, they need to know why it’s important to report them. 

Why Do You Need to Report a Near Miss?

It is common for employees not to report a near miss. Since it is an event that did not lead to any injury, illness, or damage, there is usually no hard evidence that a near miss happened. This makes it easy to go unreported without any short-term consequences.

However, there will be long-term consequences for an unreported near miss: the risk of injury increases for all employees. 

After all, near misses could have led to some serious injury or damage, and the only reason it didn’t was a matter of chance or stroke of luck.

If the same conditions that led to a near miss are not reported and then rectified or mitigated, a similar incident can happen again. There is no guarantee there will be no harm or damage caused the next time it happens.

Thus, reporting a near miss can help organisations improve processes to create a safer workplace before serious accidents happen. As S.L. Smith states in Occupational Hazards (1994):

“Near miss incidents challenge the tradition of using an accident to initiate a thorough review of safety conditions, practices, and training. Tracking near miss incidents offers organisations a better opportunity to focus their preventative efforts.”

Why Do You Need to Report an Incident?

Reporting incidents in the workplace can benefit both employees and employers. Here are the top five ways:

  1. It can prevent more severe incidents by fixing a health and safety issue before it becomes a bigger problem.
  1. It can improve other health and safety measures in the workplace by identifying the gaps in the safety procedures.
  1. Both employees and employers can save time and resources by reducing the lost time and costs associated with more serious injuries.
  1. It can ensure companies are HSE compliant and prevent businesses from being penalised for non-compliance.
  1. Employees are more productive and happy when they feel their employers care for their safety in the workplace. 

And as an important reminder, reporting incidents is required by the UK’s health and safety laws. The RIDDOR law also requires employers to report serious incidents and cases of disease to enforcing authorities. 

Step 3: Train Employees to Identify Near Misses and Incidents

By this stage, your employees will understand what reportable near misses and incidents are and why it’s important to report them. The next step is to make sure they know how to identify them.

Identifying incidents that have led to injury, illness, or damage can be pretty straightforward because of the resulting harm or damage. The tricky part is identifying a near miss. 

What makes a near miss worthy of reporting? Here is a short checklist your employees can use to help determine a reportable near miss:

  1. Could someone have been injured by the event?
  2. Could something have been damaged?
  3. Is it an unsafe condition?
  4. Is it an unsafe act?

If the answer is “yes” to any of these questions, then the event is a reportable near miss. Here are a few examples for clarity. 

Event or ObservationQuestionAnswerIs this a reportable near miss?
An employee slipped on a puddle of water but did not fall.Could someone have been injured by the event?YesYes
An employee observed a puddle of water in a busy thoroughfare but nobody slipped.Is it an unsafe condition?YesYes
A machine has the potential to leak water if it is not serviced. Currently, it is not leaking water as it has been serviced.Could someone have been injured by the event?

Is it an unsafe condition?
NoNo
An employee working at height was not wearing a helmet and almost fell through the roof but did not.Could someone have been injured by the event?

Could something have been damaged?
YesYes
An employee observed someone working at height without a helmet but nothing happened.Is it an unsafe act?YesYes
An employee who was planning to work from height could not find his helmet. So he did not perform his task.Could someone have been injured by the event?

Is it an unsafe act?
NoNo

Step 4: Train Employees on How to Use the Reporting System

Next, it’s time to train your employees on how to use your company’s near miss and incident reporting system. Make sure your employees know:

  1. How to fill out and submit a near miss or incident report. 
  2. Who they need to report to, if applicable.
  3. What follow up they need to do, if any.

Making sure your employees know these steps is not enough to ensure they comply with reporting near misses and incidents. Employers are also responsible for creating a conducive environment for reporting. 

As a general rule of thumb, employees are more likely to make a report if the reporting system is easy to use. 

The workplace safety culture also matters. Employees who feel safe to report without fear of being reprimanded are less likely to avoid reporting near misses or incidents.

Create a Conducive Workplace Environment for Reporting

The final step after training your employees is to create a conducive environment for reporting near misses and incidents in the workplace.

Investing in a cloud-based system with incident reporting solutions like Protector can simplify the reporting process, making it easier and more accessible for employees to report near misses or incidents without interrupting their productivity. 

In tandem, creating a first-class workplace safety culture can further solidify an environment where employees feel safe to report events.

If you would like to learn more about how your organisation can improve the reporting of near misses and incidents in your workplace, contact us for a free, no-obligation demo of Protector

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