What is an incident report?

Written by LetsBuild

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Whenever an accident, or other incident, happens on the job, an incident report needs to be completed and filed right away.  These reports are then used to investigate what happened and can hopefully help prevent the same accident from occurring in the future.

Most of the time, incident reports are filed for accidents and injuries, but they can also be filled out for property damage, misconduct, safety issues, and security issues.  Anyone is allowed to complete an incident report, but most of the time, these reports are filed by a person of authority, an employee who is reporting something that they saw or experienced, or a person who wants to raise awareness of what is going on.

There is no right or wrong incident, when it comes to reporting, especially since what may seem minor could end up being something major in the future.  However, there are four types of incidents that should always be reported and never ignored.

4 Incidents that Should Always Be Reported

1. No Harm Incidents

It may seem silly to report no harm events, because it sounds like a person is tattling about something that will never harm anyone in the future.  However, since you never know when something can become harmful, it is always best to report it immediately.  At the very least, you will be alerting everyone that this issue exists, and that they should exercise caution in the future.

2. Near Misses

There are times when a person could have been injured from something that occurred on the job, but they lucked out and came away unscathed.  While this is good news for that person, it doesn’t mean that everyone will be just as lucky in the future.  That is why it is a good idea to report these issues, so no one needs to suffer from a major injury in the future.

3. Adverse Incidents

Adverse incidents almost always relate to people being harmed from medications or a medical device, but those same effects can occur from other items at any job site around the world.  Mold in a building could cause adverse effects to multiple employees, but that is only one example of what this type of incident could be.

4. Sentinel Incidents

A sentinel incident is when something happens that causes a person to be seriously injured or having them dying from what happened.  These incidents normally include falls, trips, and other accidents that could have been avoided in most cases.

When a person goes to report any of the above incidents, or another type of incident, they must make sure that their report includes quite a bit of specific information.

What Information Should Be in an Incident Report

  • Information on what exactly happened
  • Where the incident happened
  • When the incident happened
  • How the incident happened
  • Who was involved in the incident
  • Who is reporting the incident
  • Who observed the incident
  • Any damage or injury that occurred from the incident

It goes without saying that incident reports must be very detailed and contain all the information that is necessary.  If any details are left out, it can mean the difference between having this type of incident not happening again and having the same thing go wrong in the near future.

Excellent Incident Reports Will Include All Five of the Following

While you may think that you can write down the answers to all the items above and your incident report will be fine to submit, there are a few other things that you must know.  Being aware of these next five things will ensure that your incident report is complete and ready to be read and reviewed for better results.

1. Facts

You may think that providing half of the facts, or most of the facts, is good enough for your incident report.  However, when you do that, you normally let your emotions get involved and that can skew what is on the paper.  Instead of writing down your opinion, you should simply state all the facts and don’t leave even the most miniscule detail out.

2. Accuracy

Everything that you write down on the incident report must be accurate.  While the information that you include may be true, you might end up spelling a person’s name wrong unintentionally or there may be a few typos that you missed.  This may not seem like a big deal, but it is when the report is being reviewed, because people may not be sure if you meant one thing or something else.

3. Make Sure Every Section is Complete

In our hurry to do things, we have a tendency to skip over things that we do not think are important.  You may be tempted to skip a few of the smaller sections in an incident report, just to save some time, but that is the worst thing you can do if you want the best results.  Include the names of people who were injured, as well as those who witnessed what was going on, and don’t forget to include the time everything occurred as well.  We also recommend including any other details that you remember and are not asked for, especially if you think that those details can help during the investigation process.

4. Photos and Diagrams

While you may think that your descriptions are enough in an incident report, photos and diagrams will always make your incident report better.  These two things can show exactly where everything was when the incident took place and they ensure that everyone can picture exactly what happened.  Plus, the facts cannot be disputed when the details are provided in picture form.

5. Validate the Report

Once the incident report is complete, everyone involved should sign off on what was written.  This ensures that everyone agrees with what is in writing, so that there are no issues down the road.

As soon as incident reports are filled out, they should be forwarded to investigators, so that they can look into what happened and try to prevent the same thing from happening in the future.  They can use the report to collect more information and evidence.  A final report will be written after the investigation is over and it can be referred back to in the future, if any other incidents of the same nature occur.

Some people do not think that incident reports are necessary for so many things, but they can be excellent points of reference in the future, especially if something continues to happen or something similar occurs.  At the very least, they create a paper trail that can be referenced for years to come.