The importance of Incident Reporting

Author: Patricia Wilson, OSH Consultant ECA WA

Reporting incidents when they occur, both actual incidents and near misses, allows for the employer to manage the incident and provide adequate help and support to the affected parties. It is also an essential part of identifying potential risks and hazards which may need to be controlled and helps to reach the ultimate goal of preventing a similar incident from reoccurring.

All incidents, regardless of whether it is a near miss, minor, major or serious event, must be reported and investigated to ensure that the cause is identified and processes are put in place to prevent reoccurrence.

The level of investigation should be appropriate to the severity of the incident. This can be achieved by analysing the steps or activities taken prior to the incident occurring, and working out what could have been done differently.

Incidents can be in relation to property, people, procedures or other non-specified events.

What if an incident that caused an injury was not managed or investigated?

The following is a simple example.

You receive a laceration to your hand, caused by misusing cable-cutters.

Consider the following scenarios:

(1) You do not report it and receive no first aid or medical care. The following may occur:

(a) The wound becomes infected and causes internal damage which requires additional medical attention and delays your recovery. This negatively affects your return to work and may impair your home and personal life.
(b) Your work colleague is unaware of the circumstances of your incident and sustains an injury for similar reasons, possibly with more severity than your original injury.
(c) As your original incident was not reported, the potential for injury has not been highlighted and additional preventative controls have not been put in place.

(2) You do report the injury and receive the appropriate first aid or medical care. The following may occur:

(a) Your injury is managed and appropriately cared for. You are supported through your recovery and return to work in a safe and controlled manner.
(b) The incident report is reviewed and the circumstances analysed.
(c) Controls are put in place to manage the potential risk of this activity and reduce the potential of future injury.
(d) Other workers are made aware of the incident through Toolbox or Safety Talks and take appropriate measures to protect themselves.

Obviously these are simple examples, but the results of each option can have a dramatic effect on the injured person, their colleagues and their workplace. 

Businesses can encourage incident reporting by creating a no-blame environment and promoting a strong safety culture where employees look out for both their own safety and the safety of all staff.