The Incident Report And The Disclosure Process

Posted 8.10.20 by:

Incident Report
Incident report form

Incident reporting is nothing new.  But, if it’s your first experience with this sort of thing, it can seem more than a little intimidating.  Let’s start by laying down the groundwork by defining what exactly the report entails, and then later, we’ll discuss why it’s so essential for your business.

The Incident Report Defined

Depending on the industry, an incident report may have slightly different meanings.  For example, Wikipedia defines an incident report as a form filled out to document an unusual event at a facility such as an injury.  The definition and examples given can be found within the healthcare industry, and the focus is on injury in the facility.  The description states that another term for an incident report is an accident report.

Let’s look at another industry and how it perceives the definition.  With law enforcement agencies, two reports are quite common – a police report and an incident report.  We’ll go more in-depth into the difference later in this article. Still, in a nutshell – an incident report is any non-criminal occurrences like a cat up a tree, a no-fault car accident, or weather-related property damage, to name a few examples.

Incident reporting for business carries a more complex definition that includes multiple types of situations.

A business may have policies in place to fill out an incident report for any number of reasons that may include examples on the following list.

  • Employee accident
  • Product damage
  • Equipment breakdown
  • Facility maintenance issues
  • Employee behavior
  • Disaster response

What Is The Purpose Of An Incident Report?

When it comes to incident reporting, many businesses’ main concerns include (not in any particular order):

  • Liability
  • Expense Mitigation
  • Accident Prevention
  • Occurrence Documentation
  • Loss Prevention
  • Strategic Management
  • Legal Responsibility
  • Ethical Responsibility

When an incident occurs on a business facility premises, there is a certain level of responsibility that the business has to maintain a safe environment.  For example, suppose a client slips and falls on a walkway just outside of the business entrance. In that case, that business may be liable if improperly completed property maintenance is to blame.

When a situation occurs where a company may be at fault, an incident report is invaluable to a) document the incident for authorities, b) ensure implementation of proper corrective action, c) provide documentation for required training or disciplinary action, as the case may be.

Expense Mitigation

Incident reports are a way for businesses to mitigate expenses.  By documenting incidents, business managers can ascertain the nature of the incident and build preventive strategies to avoid future costs caused by a repeat occurrence.

Accident Prevention

Similar to expense mitigation, the act of preventing accidents focuses on the injury and damage portions of an occurrence.  Employee injury and accidents cost an excessive amount of money.  According to Injury Facts of the National Safety Council, the cost to society and business in 2018 for workplace injuries was $170.8 billion US.  You read that right, a staggering amount, isn’t it?  That’s the monetary reason why preventing accidents is crucial.  But more importantly, the 156 million workers who were injured or the poor souls of the 4,493 preventable deaths (2018) deserved to have appropriate policies for preventing workplace incidents in place.

Occurrence Documentation

With all of the injuries and deaths in workplaces each year, all incidents must be reported and documented.

In this way, accidents and injuries may are preventable through proper management of documented incidents.

And a concise and organized incident reporting process is vital in managing these situations.  We’ll talk more about that later in the article.

Loss Prevention

It isn’t just injuries and accidents that are reportable in an incident report.  Incident reports are also valuable to a business when it comes to loss prevention.

Documenting theft is vital in the legal fight against its occurrence.  Any retail business will tell you that having a shoplifting incident, appropriately reported, will aid in the thief’s criminal charge. 

The larger businesses which utilize insurance for a loss will most certainly require an adequately filled out incident reporting form.

Strategic Management

As a manager, you know that being strategic in your focus is vital to your operation’s success.  And this includes a properly organized and documented incident reporting process.

Managing multiple employees requires a strategic mindset where incidents and occurrences are dealt with swiftly and for the betterment of all involved.

Managing facilities or even multiple facilities also require an organized incident reporting process.  Imagine trying to manage 20 properties as a property management firm.  The number of facility maintenance requests and occurrences alone would likely be more than the average property manager can keep organized without a well-placed incident reporting structure.

Legal Responsibility

Not to leave this highly essential purpose of the incident report until the end of the list on purpose, but businesses’ legal responsibility to report incidents and injury is vital to any company’s proper operations.

Take workplace accidents, for example.  In 2018 in the United States, the construction industry dominated the statistics for fatal work injuries with 950 deaths.

Each workplace where one of these tragic accidents occurred had to file multiple forms, incident reports, and the like, simply to avoid massive government fines and possible legal ramifications for non-compliance.

Let’s take a look at US businesses that work with consumer products as an example.  According to the United States Consumer Product Safety Commission, companies that deal with products must immediately report the following with civil or even criminal penalties for insubordination:

  • Defective products that might pose a substantial or unreasonable risk of injury, serious injury, or death to consumers.
  • Products failing to comply with safety standards, regulations, rules, or bans under the CPSA or statutes enforced by the CPSC.
  • Any occurrence where a child chokes on a toy or part of a toy or game, whether medical treatment is provided.
  • Individual lawsuits (applying to manufacturers and importers)
Ethical Responsibility

Aside from the legal ramifications of insubordinate reporting, businesses have an ethical responsibility to document incidents.  Whether it be a client accident or a product failure, incident reporting can help prevent injuries to both people and property. Thus it is an ethical imperative of businesses to have proper incident documentation.

What Is An Example Of An Incident?

With all this talk of incidents, one ought to note that there are multiple examples of what may constitute an incident.  As well, some incidents will be industry-specific.  For example, a restaurant may have a dropped plate incident type to report in its incident reporting program.  It could deal with situations where wait staff might drop a ceramic plate of food on route to the client’s table.  Although this occurrence may not seem like a big deal, several possible scenarios could quickly escalate into a grave situation.  What if another client gets up to go to the washroom and slips on some spilled food.  And they fall and hit their head on the corner of a table as they fall.  Now a seemingly simple occurrence of dropping a plate of food could result in serious injury.

As a part of a strategic plan to avoid injury and prevent accidents, the wait staff might require to fill out a quick form documenting the incident.  If procedures are in place to report and quickly resolve the occurrence, then possible further accidents could easily be avoided.

Some further clarification of incident types may help any who aren’t clear on what one should be filing an incident report.  The following is a list of suggested examples of incidents that business ought to consider including in their reporting program.

  • Injuries and accidents
  • Near misses
  • Property or equipment damage or new risks
  • Events requiring organization awareness for preventive action such as security concerns
  • Health and safety concerns
  • Employee misconduct

What Is Included In An Incident Report?

When filing an incident report, one must become a sort of incident detective.  The information should be considered a legal document and deserves the utmost seriousness and precision.

Filling out the incident report accurately, factually, and to the best of one’s ability, is vital and essential to a successful reporting process.  Some of the essential information that ought to be included in an incident report form are as follows.

  • Affected People – Fairly straightforward, all individuals affected by the incident.
  • Impacted Business Unit – If a part of a production process needs to close or divert, this ought to note in the report.
  • Description of Injuries and Severity – A vital aspect of the report is noting how a person or persons were physically affected and its severity.  Canadian businesses will be familiar with this process with the Commission de la santé et de la sécurité du travail (CSST) in Quebec,  WSIB in Ontario, or WorkSafeBC in British Columbia, for example.  In the United States, each state also has its reporting agencies such as the Workers’ Compensation Board in New York or the Department of Industrial Relations in California.
  • General Information
    • Date/Time – One should record two dates and times.  First are the date and time of the incident.  Next are the date and time that the report completion occurred.
    • Event Description – A complete and comprehensive description of the event or events that transpired.
    • Environmental Conditions – A description of all local conditions in the area where the incident occurred.  For example, for slips and falls – was the floor slippery or icy, for example.
  • Witnesses – In this report, one should find the names and statements of witnesses of the occurrence.
  • Administrative Resolutions – The steps completed to control or resolve the issue immediately.  It is vital in the case of an accident where injury or worse is involved.  In many cases, the supervisor or manager on duty may face liability if no resolution to control risk was undertaken.
  • Damages to Property, Facility, or Equipment – It stands to reason that all damages should be carefully noted and even photographed.  Including in the detailed reports, the damages can clarify incident costs, cost of resolution, and provide insurance companies information if required.
  • Manager/Supervisor Name & Title – One of the final and essential elements of the incident report is the sign-off.  That is, the managing person who is filing the report should sign and date the I.R. with their full name and title within the company.  It shows that a responsible authority person has completed the incident report and allows interested parties to contact them for further information if required.

What Should You Not Include In An Incident Report?

As mentioned, there are several elements essential to an incident report.  However, some things do not have a place in the report.

Emotions have no place in the report other than to describe people’s reactions to an event from a third party perspective and only if necessary.  A manager often may be upset with an employee, especially if the incident is an employee misconduct situation.  And these feelings can be transferred to ‘saying the wrong thing’ on the report.  Reports ought to be filled out by an impartial party, preferably in a management role.

Personal opinions can sometimes creep into a report as well.  When a manager sees an employee or other at fault, sometimes they may assume blame without knowing all the facts.  After all, if obstructions block attributes from the initial view, it might be easy to point a finger initially.  However, frequently some factors are not immediately apparent.  For this reason, the report completion ought to be a factual, formal manner where opinions and assumptions are omitted.

The Incident Reporting Process For Business

Having a decent enough incident report template or templates and calling it a process isn’t what a business owner ought to do.  There should be a procedure set in place for incident reporting.  And depending on the type of business, industry, and business operations, there may be several methods documented.

What Are The Main Stages Of Incident Reporting?

The incident report process can be broken down into a pre-stage, followed by six primary incident report stages.

The Incident

Fairly self-explanatory, the entire process is set in motion by a potential incident.

Stage 1 – Incident Initial Disclosure

The first stage is the disclosure of an occurrence to a person in a supervisory role.  Whether it’s a hospital, a construction site, or a fleet of service personnel, if there is an incident, the first line is the supervisor who first acknowledges a situation.

Stage 2 – Immediate Actions

In the case where a person is injured or dangerous machinery needs to be immediately powered down, the emergency response to mitigate immediate danger and help any who have been injured is the priority.

Stage 3 – Reporting Completion

Once the immediate dust has settled and quick or emergency actions committed, the individual in a supervisory role needs to fill out an incident report or reports. It may include multiple forms, depending on the nature of the incident.

Stage 4 – Incident Report Transmission

In the case where a work injury occurred, the notification to the proper authorities is a must, within their locally specified time constraint.  For example, in Arkansas, a Form N must be immediately filled out and provided to the injured employee and submitted to the Arkansas Workers’ Compensation Commission.

Stage 5 – Corrective Action

Typically following the incident, corrective and preventive actions are required.  In equipment or facility breakdown, the steps are apparent – fix said equipment or facility.  In the case where a misconduct incident occurred, the corrective action may not be as cut and dry.  However, there should be some form of action in any incident to prevent a repeat incident and educate those involved with any new processes or procedural changes.

Stage 6 – Incident Follow Up

Lastly, after all, five other stages are completed the incident follow up.  It may be as simple as reaching out to an injured employee to find out how they are doing. Or reaching out to clients or other potentially involved, non-employee persons, or following up with any subsequent documents, forms, or actions may be required given the incident’s particulars.

When Should You Complete An Incident Report?

Incident reports are best to complete when a situation occurs where a person is at risk of injury, has been injured, public complaint, employee misconduct, or any other case where a person, property, or equipment is at stake.

Depending on your industry, company, and business model, this could mean many potential situations.  In terms of construction, for example, it may mean worker injury or even a close call.  Any time a problem occurs where preventive or corrective action could benefit and potentially avoid harm or other adverse situations is an excellent time to file an incident report.

Depending on how proactive a company is, some may even have preventive incident reporting procedures in place for corrective actions to be addressed before incident occurrence.  It is quite typical in industries such as facility or property maintenance and management.

What Type Of Incidents Should Be Disclosed?

As mentioned above, the types of incidents that ought to be disclosed are any time a person, equipment, or property is at risk of being injured or damaged somehow.  Also, situations that have impaired a person, property, or equipment should always be disclosed.

Disclosure should also include employee misconduct incidents and any complaints that warrant management to address (public complaints about facility safety, for example).  Also, security events often included in incident reports, are essential for many businesses. It might consist of cases of vandalism, theft, or other criminal activity also.

There are many different types of incidents that could occur that might warrant an incident report.  As you can imagine, each industry may have its particular events that need reporting. 

How Do You Write An Incident Report? At Work?

Writing an incident report for yourself at home might not be a bad idea for specific situations.  Naturally, a small cut from a knife in the kitchen when preparing a meal does not warrant an incident report unless the person who got cut is a hired cook.  In most instances, incident reports are no requirement in the home. 

However, what if some city workers are working and dumping garbage on your front lawn?  It might be a good time to fill out your incident report to document the situation and bring it to management’s attention for corrective action. 

Typically incident reports and reporting are completed at a place of business.

As outlined earlier, there are vital elements to include in an incident report.  Let’s take a rapid recap of what you’re going to need to have. 

Data To Collect For The Incident Report

  • Date, time, and location of the incident
  • Nature of the occurrence (the type of incident)
  • Names and titles of those involved, including witnesses
  • Precursive information (if applicable)
  • Description of the incident as it occurred, including details regarding surroundings
  • Identifiable equipment involved (machinery, tools, PPE, products)
  • Immediate actions that taken to treat injuries, limit risks, prevent further injury (employee received first-aid, machinery locked out, etc.)
  • Damages to equipment, property, or the like

What Makes A Good Incident Report?

A good incident report is one that is concise, accurate, unbiased, and descriptive.  A report that makes analysis and resolution as straightforward as possible makes a good incident report.

Consider the post-report analysis as a person in a position of decision making management.  If you had to analyze the report so you could institute resolutions for corrective action and prevention, then what would you want to investigate?

An incident report that paints a picture of events to easily ‘see the event’ in your mind, from reading it is excellent and well written.  But if the report is either non-existent or missing critical pieces of information, it can lead to many problems and potentially some pretty hefty costs.

Costs And Benefits Of Business Incident Reporting

With injuries in the workplace driving costs so high that a small business could be crippled or even bankrupted from a single accident, it pays to have a stable reporting process.

Take the construction industry, for example.  This industry is no stranger to accidents, with 21.1% of the worker fatalities of 2018 (OSHA). And unfortunately, this means it is also no stranger to severe injury or even death on the job.

As one can no doubt imagine, death on a small construction project can be life-altering for those involved. But if found negligent, it could mean civil or even criminal penalties for a small, medium, or even large corporation or sole proprietorship.

So, how can the average business protect themselves from this heinous situation?  Having processes and procedures to limit exposure to dangers and having a preventive attitude to incident reporting is smart to run a business.

Many successful businesses and corporations have tiered reporting systems in place to identify hazards and other potential incidents before they happen.  This form of ‘pre-incident reporting’ is not only a proactive measure that saves companies millions, but it also saves lives.

What Are The Costs Of Incident Reporting?

Incident reporting may seem like yet another pile of red tape that management has to wade through daily.  However, it shouldn’t be that way.  Many companies that have multi-tiered reporting solutions use templates to help control the flow of reports. 

For example, a retail company (retail accounted for 14% of injuries in 2018)may have an incident report related directly to facilities and property.  They might have another report dealing with equipment breakdown and failures.  And yet another account for worker injury or accident.

The costs to set up templates, have them printed, train staff, and implement daily operations may seem staggering.  But the real expense is doing nothing.  When found negligent, individual managers, owners, and supervisors might all find themselves under the authorities’ microscope.  And negligence is not an excuse that holds up in court, so what are the real costs of incident reporting?  Whatever they add up to, they are a fraction of what they could be if a company does nothing.

What Are The Benefits Of Incident Reporting?

There are FOUR main benefits of incident reporting for businesses. 

A workplace has so many facets to the operations that having situations that impede operations means a loss of revenue, aside from the obvious fact that no one wants anyone ever to get hurt or fall ill. In contrast, in the workplace, the costs associated are astronomical.

The First Benefit – Hazard Communication

Relaying potential hazards to others is the first and primary benefit to an efficient reporting program.  It allows management to act reactively in the moment, rather than a delayed response.  It allows for the mitigation of potential worse incidents.

The Second Benefit – Procedural Reinforcement

In any company, reminding staff that a situation can occur at any moment, and a reactive process to handle said occurrence is present, does several things.

  1. Reinforces procedures within a company
  2. It Reinforces managerial support of staff to drive company morale
  3. Reinforces the need to always report without fail

The Third Benefit – Process Improvement

There are often opportunities in life for people, both employees, and employers, to improve.  Life has a way of throwing us into situations where we are forced to make tough choices.  Having a robust incident reporting form process allows for the cases that warrant such reports to be appropriately analyzed to avoid future recurrences.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2018, there were 2.8 million nonfatal workplace injuries or illnesses.  Private industry employers reported these.

As you already know, businesses must have or provide a means for employees to get workers’ compensation insurance in the US.  It covers expenses for employees while they are off work due to work-related injury or illness.  The consequences of not having this insurance in place can be devastatingly severe for a business.

The Fourth Benefit – Liability

But it isn’t just insurance a company needs to have in place to cover such dreadful situations as an employee incident where the injury is involved. There are other duties and responsibilities that employers must adhere to, according to Findlaw.  These include posting a notice of compliance with workers’ compensation laws, for one.  Employers must also have someone on staff at all times who can administer first aid and emergency medical response to fellow employees in case of emergency while waiting for emergency medical personnel to arrive.

And lastly, aside from complying with requests for information from the workers’ compensation board, an incident report must also be sent to the most accessible (nearest) office of the WCB.

So the benefit here is not facing the wrath of government authorities.  That’s a pretty significant benefit.

How Do I Limit My Company’s Incident Reporting Costs?

Limiting incident reporting costs begins with an efficient and streamlined system.  This system would include procedures that would be an efficient means of training staff if presented to staff in video format.  However, there may be associated costs in the process that are redundant or even, perhaps, unnecessary.

Take the use of manual incident reports as an example.  Suppose a company decides to organize its incident reporting processes into a multi-tiered system with different branches for different business aspects. In that case, one can imagine the cost of printing these multiple format forms.

The costs of printing these incident report templates begin to be a burden for companies when there are multiple locations or facilities involved.

For service-based companies with fleets of service technicians, the daily use of paper, ink, and other associated costs relating to printing become more than many businesses bargained for when it comes to their incident reporting forms. 

But before we discuss the best solutions for streamlining and moving your reporting processes into the modern era, let’s take a quick look at those different types of incident reports and forms with a few example incident report templates.

Should You Manually Write Incident Reports?

Manually writing incident reports is a smart idea if you have a tiny business with minimal employees.  However, once a certain threshold in size is reached, having manual incident reports becomes a bit redundant. 

With many companies that run multiple facilities and locations, the manual report simply isn’t feasible.  Although it may still be an essential part of the process, depending on how the company is structured.

For most larger companies, manually writing reports such as incident reports doesn’t make any sense when we have digital communications.  Using a cloud-based system with multi-device access and web portal management is the new way of reporting.

Keeping costs down and incident reports at your fingertips, there isn’t any sense in manual writing at this point.  Not with cloud-based solutions like 1st Incident Reporting’s App & Web Software so reasonably priced.  Maintaining your reporting budget is even more comfortable.

The Future Of Incident Reporting – The Cloud-Based Incident Report

Why 1st Incident Reporting’s Solution Is Right For Your Business

From property and facility management to construction sites and more, we’ve got the incident reporting software solution for your business.

Here are just a few of the features of our digital incident reporting solution:

  • Multi-Device Access
  • Web Portal Management
  • Custom Incident Configuration
  • Flexible Notifications
  • Real-Time User Location Tracking
  • Powerful Personalized Summary Reports
  • 3rd Party Data Integrations

Frequently Asked Incident Reporting Questions

What’s The Difference Between A Police Report And An Incident Report?

There is one main difference between a police report and an incident report – the police fill out a police report.  Although technically speaking, a police report may very well fall under the classification of an incident report; the perception is that the police report cannot be filled out by anyone other than police. In contrast, anyone could fill out an incident report. 

How Do You Keep Track Of Incident Reports?

You likely noticed on the example reports shown earlier on this page include an incident report number. A smart way of documenting incidents is via an organized filing system.

Depending on the nature of the incident, follow up activities may last for days, weeks, or even months or years.

Having a database of reports that can be accessed easily at a later date is not only crucial, but it is also essential to improve operations progressively.

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