What are the Main Stages and Processes of Incident Reporting?

By Brian Sugarman on March 24, 2021
Tags: Construction, Safety

Man holding smartphone on construction site

Incident reports are effective tools to promote safety in the workplace. You want to do everything in your power to fill out your incident reports as professionally and effectively as possible. We have compiled a thorough list of the main incident reporting stages so you can ensure you’re taking every step to foster a culture of safety in the workplace. Here are the main stages and processes to consider for incident reporting: 

 

1. Initial response and disclosure 

You should begin the process of incident reporting as soon as an incident or near-miss occurs. Your initial responses should include administering any medical aid that’s necessary, containing spills, and calling the authorities if needed.

You should also contact your company leadership team so they’re aware of the situation and can begin reporting protocols right away. Your leadership team will ensure other team members have left the danger zone and are out of harm’s way.

You can then begin formal documentation once you’ve secured everyone’s safety and notified supervisors. 

 

2. Preserve and document the scene 

You will need to start your incident reporting by getting formal and accurate documentation immediately after the event has occurred.

You will first want to make sure that your teams have shut down any equipment and that any hazards or spills have been contained. As soon as it’s safe to do so, you will need to preserve the scene of the incident and begin recording the details of the event by taking photographs and videos of the scene.

You will want to begin your documentation before equipment or other materials have been moved for clean-up purposes so that you are getting an accurate picture of the scene. In some instances, you may also want to use tape or cones to prevent team members from compromising the scene before you have had a chance to fully document the incident. 

It’s critical that you record as many details as possible so the investigative team can have the most complete picture of what happened and what led to the event. Here are a few important details that you will want to include when surveying the scene:

  1. Equipment involved in the incident
  2. Cleanliness of the area as well as obvious hazards, such as spills
  3. Weather conditions 
  4. Lighting and noise
  5. The presence or lack of safety guards and safety equipment
  6. General location, date, and time of the incident

 

3. Gather witness testimony 

Gathering witness testimony is one of the most crucial components of incident reporting and interviewing witnesses in a timely manner will increase your chances of acquiring accurate details about the event. You can move toward collecting information from witnesses once you have finished documenting the scene of the event.

Contact the supervisor to get the names and contact information from anyone that was present and promptly begin interviewing the witnesses. You don’t want to delay these interviews because it’s possible that the memories of witnesses can become blurred with the passage of time – particularly in the case of a traumatic accident or near-miss.

To help you maximize your witness interviews, here are some helpful tips to consider:

  • When possible, conduct your interviews at the scene of the incident to help witnesses remember some of the more minute details of the incident. 
  • Assure witnesses that your job is to gather information and not to place blame. Emphasize that their honesty is crucial to the safety of the workplace and that incident reporting helps to prevent future accidents.
  • Allow witnesses time to think and retell the incident. Ask open-ended questions. 
  • Interview witnesses privately. This gives them the opportunity to recall their own memories of the event and not fall under the influence of another witness’s testimony. 

You should record all this information as thoroughly as possible. In addition to written notes, consider using an audio recorder or filming witness interviews so you don’t miss any crucial details.

It’s best to discuss interview methods with supervisors or leadership before you begin. After an incident, workers might be afraid of providing their testimony, so you will want to make sure they feel safe and supported throughout the process.

 

4. Complete the form 

You should compile a formal incident report once you’ve gathered all of the pertinent information. OSHA requires workplaces to file incident reports on accidents, injuries, and even near-misses. The administration also provides helpful forms to ensure you record and submit your incident reports correctly. 

 

5. Report to the authorities 

In certain cases, you will need to submit the report to the appropriate authorities once the report has been completed. For example, this would apply in instances where there’s been a fatality, a hazardous spill, or any other major event where there are statutory requirements for you to disclose this information to the proper authorities. 

 

6. Determine the causes 

After you file your incident report, you now must work to determine how and why the incident occurred in the first place. This process of investigating a workplace incident is often referred to as a root cause analysis.

You or your investigative team will need to conduct a root cause analysis to locate the gaps in your safety protocols and systems so that you can determine the “root causes” of an incident. OSHA provides a helpful guide for determining the root causes of an incident and this guide outlines helpful questions to ask when executing your investigation.

This guide can help you to consider the incident from multiple viewpoints and ensure you are performing a thorough examination of the incident. 

 

7. Implement corrective actions 

Once the investigation has been completed, you can start to take steps to prevent a similar incident from occurring again in the future. Your team can implement the corrective actions that are needed to cultivate a culture of workplace safety that’s in the best interest of the organization and its employees. 

The first place to start with your corrective action plan is to understand the safety and quality standards for your workplace. Once you have a solid grasp on these standards, you can begin to plan specific ways of preventing future harm and educating team members on how to practice workplace safety. 

For example, this could be anything from stressing the importance of wearing safety gear to dedicated training on safe equipment use. Your corrective action plans should be tailored to your specific workplace and the weaknesses that you uncovered in the incident investigation. 

 

Creating a safe and productive workplace

Incident reports are an important part of creating a safe and productive workplace for all your team members. When you take the necessary steps to complete the incident reports, you’re enabling the company to take the appropriate corrective actions, and this will allow the company to be more prepared going forward. At the end of the day, it’s all about doing everything you can to foster a safer working environment for everyone.