5 elements of a good incident report

Written by LetsBuild

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Incident reports are part of risk management tools employed to describe and evaluate the circumstances led to an event that potentially endangered the wellbeing of employees or actives of the company. The documentation is used in both construction works and office activities with the goal of preventing similar cases to happen in the future.

Besides having an important role to improve the safety conditions and watch over the assets of the company, incident reports are one of the supporting documentation insurances demand once accidents occur. They are also utilised by lawyers to carry on with legal procedures to assist the company and employees during pleads.

Hence, a well-crafted and detailed incident report is key to have an effective business process quality management.

What is an incident?

From the management perspective, an incident is an unexpected occurrence that could bring on health threats or endanger actives of a company – they are also called “near misses” as the event itself didn’t cause major loses.

Whenever the incident results in injuries or detriment of the equipment and private property, it is addressed as an “accident”. In this order of ideas, all accidents are incidents.

Although different economic activities seek to comply with specific occupational and health services (OHS) standards, both incidents and accidents own a very similar report framework, whether the event happened in a construction site or in an office.

What is the structure of an Incident Report?

The first part of an incident report is the introduction or executive summary. The document starts mentioning the international and national standards the report conforms with. Additionally, the purpose, the scope and the definition of the terminology used to describe the events figure at the beginning of the document.

If there are several versions of the report, the reference codes must be displayed before the introduction in a table alongside the names and firms of the process owners and supervisors.

The context of the incident is outlined after the introduction. In this section, the place where the event unfolds is described thoughtfully, including the location, dates, approximate response time, accountability of workers and if so, third parties involved.

The third part of the report is the investigation and analysis. Here, the results of the interviews with the workers implicated provide an extra background in order to carry on with a deeper evaluation of causes.

The physical and mental state of the concerned employees should also be mentioned. In this way, it is easier to figure out if the causes of the incident were due to lack of safety measurements from the company or other factors.

For instance, if the worker who had the incident was feeling unwell that day, the final assessment and conclusions should include actions to be taken in order to encourage employees to communicate their health limitations that may hinder their work results or lead to accidents.

To close the report, there are a series of recommendations on how to prevent similar happenings and show the results of the evaluation of the incident.

The key point of the recommendation is to explain in an understandable fashion and in compliance with the standards mentioned in the introduction, the corrective actions to be taken, and the expected time frame to implement solutions.

5 Elements of a Good Incident Report

Identifying the “how”, “when”, “where” and “whom” of the incident are important elements of a good report – and all companies are most likely to emphasize these marks during the document development.

However, there are five extra elements every process owner should consider adding to craft a document worth sharing, functional and actionable.

Process Workflow

Visual information is much easier to follow than dense lengthy paragraphs and table of contents. Subsequently the introduction, a good incident report often displays a process workflow presenting each of the major steps taken to build the document and come down with the corrective actions.

The level of detail of the workflow depends on the requirements of the risk management area, or else the seriousness of the incident. The key tasks to mention in the workflow includes notification of the incident, identification of responsible, interviews, investigation and analysis, conclusion, sharing learnings and implementation.

Facts on Chronological Order

The more descriptive the report is, the easier is to make a mental image of the events. With a clear picture of the incident, down-to-earth resolvings are provided in the document and implementing these solutions becomes less stressful for everyone involved.

Incident reports should start with mentioning subjects, exact location (with relatives coordinates whenever possible) and how the events happen the closest reality as possible.

The collection of testimonies should start immediately after the incident – when the memories are fresh. Although this sometimes may seem unnecessary for small incidents, there are small details that may not seem striking some time after the incident, therefore they go unnoticed and unrecorded – which can affect the result of the report.

Witnesses and Teams

A good incident report often has a section exclusively to describe the functions of the workers implicated the incident, the team that responded to the emergency and the process owners. By knowing who the professionals in charge and the workers implicated are, potential issues with confidential information can be avoided.

In the same manner, it is also important to have information about the company hierarchy. Through an understanding of the chain of command problems with the top-down or bottom-up controls and reporting are identifiable to figure out if the incident was originated from misinterpretation.

Photos and Sketches

Pictures of the place in question facilitate the understanding and assessment of the possible causes of the incident. Images help process owners get a visual background of the configuration of the working space and how it could represent a danger to employees – or well if the incident was originated for human errors.

The photos should contain reference points, and they should have a footnote with important observations and a description of the objects in it.

Sketches are an excellent way of complement pictures. In the sketches is possible of displaying point of references, showing distances and overall offering a more precise description of the place.

Sketches are useful to build a bigger picture of the workplace. They can also simplify the information offered in the picture. In this way, many distracting or unrelated elements in the picture are ignored and it is easy to focus on the elements that actually caused the accident.

Actionable Suggestions

Actionable suggestions are descriptive and straightforward. They provide a quick context and instruction on how to prevent future incidents.

The advice given in the conclusion of the report should include an overview of the causes of the incident, the risk employees were exposed to, the staff in charge of the case assessment and a specific action to be taken. Put in different words, if the incident was caused by the configuration on the positions of the materials in a warehouse, the actionable suggestions would be related to reaching out to a professional to change the way the goods are stored.

If the corrective measurements are instantly adopted, a new section on the report could be added with the timeframe, guidelines, pictures and factors considered to change the configuration of the space, or whatever action was undertaken.