If you’re wondering how to write an incident report, then you’ve come to the right place. Writing incident reports is an important stage of any company’s health and safety program, so getting the report written correctly is essential. In this guide, we’ll walk you through all the vital steps to writing your incident report efficiently and effectively on the first try.
Writing a useful and comprehensive incident report is easily accomplished in 11 steps. With some critical points included, the process of writing an incident report will soon be second nature to you (but we hope you don’t have to write too many).
We’ll start by examining the three primary considerations we have to make before writing an incident report. These include choosing the correct category and type of incident report, what relevant information to include in the report, and legal concerns with incident report contents. Then we’ll go on to go through writing the IR (incident Report), step by step. So, keep reading for everything you need to know about writing an incident report.
Table of Contents
- Before You Begin: 3 Things To Consider About How To Write An Incident Report
- Writing An Incident Report In 11 Steps
- 1) Obtain The Appropriate Incident Report Type.
- 2) Complete The Administrative Section Of The Report.
- 3) Completely Fill In Any Victim Information (If Applicable).
- 4) Completely Fill In Any Witness Information (If Applicable).
- 5) Complete Any Section Of The Incident Report About Emergency Services Contacted.
- 6) Detail The Events That Led Up To The Incident Occurring.
- 7) Detail The Environment And Conditions Present At The Time Of The Incident.
- 8) Detail The Incident Itself, Noting Who Or What Was Affected.
- 9) Detail The Actions Taken To Mitigate Hazards And Contain The Situation.
- 10) Detail Any Recommendations Or Preventive Actions Required.
- 11) Finalize The Incident Report And Sign-off On Its Completion.
- A Final Thought On Writing Incident Reports
Before You Begin: 3 Things To Consider About How To Write An Incident Report
- Incident Report Definition And Type Selection
- Relevant Information To Include In Your Incident Report
- Legal Concerns With Incident Report Contents
Explore the next three sections to determine what you need to consider before we dive into how to write your report. Keep in mind that these 3 considerations are not to be confused with the 3 requirements for writing an incident report:
- The report must be factual and without assumption.
- An incident report must be accurate and without bias.
- The incident report must be complete.
If you’re looking for more information about exactly what needs to be included in an incident report, you should read our article specializing in the subject: 12 Things To Include In An Incident Report (With 5 Tips)
Now that we’ve clarified needs versus considerations for our incident report, let’s move on to those considerations.
1) Incident Report Definition And Type Selection
With so many industries in our modern society, it stands to reason that there would also be several incident report types. However, depending on the industry, some may have different definitions for what classifies as an incident.
Some of the more common categories of incident reports, with a few examples of each, are as follows.
- Human resource-related incidents
- Transportation and vehicular incidents
- Environmental incidents
- Chemical Spill Incident Report
- Asbestos Exposure Incident Report (also classified as a human resources report)
As you may have gleaned from the above categories, depending on whether you’re referring to a vehicle, person, property, or something else, your definition of an incident may take on a different meaning. However, we can assume that an incident constitutes any situation where injury or damage has or could occur to a person, thing, or property.
Depending on the incident report type, you may find that you must file some reports with the authorities within a specific time. Take a vehicular accident report in the state of New York, for example. If there is injury (or death) or damage over $1000, all drivers involved must file an accident report within ten days from the incident’s date. (source)
For more information about definitions of the incident and the differences between an incident and an accident, look at our article Incident Report Vs. Accident Report – Differences For Business.
2) Relevant Information To Include In Your Incident Report
You must include several things in each incident report, no matter the type of incident. However, we can make some general assumptions about what sort of information is required. Here’s the quick run-down of what you need to include:
- Affected people, property or business units
- Description of injuries, damage, or hazard
- Date, time, and location of the incident or hazard
- Events leading up to the incident or hazard (if applicable)
- Local conditions that may have affected the incident
- Resolutions to the incident or hazard and further recommendations.
- Witness and report writer information, including contact information
The above inclusions to the incident report are very similar to the nine contents of a police report, according to Nolo’s information on the contents of a police report. (source)
Including each of these items listed above will ensure that your incident report includes the pertinent information needed to be effective. Just remember to pay attention to each section of the unique report type you are completing if there is further information called for on the report that is not listed above, as will be the case in any situation where customized or unique events transpire that require incident reporting.
For a more in-depth look at the Incident Reporting process, read about The Incident Report And The Disclosure Process here.
Let’s move on to the process of completing the report. Using a method and adopting uniform procedures ensures all staff receive equal training and equally understand their roles and steps required for your health and safety incident reporting practices.
Before you start writing, consider the legalities for a moment.
3) Legal Concerns With Incident Report Contents
In the United States and other countries, there is no shortage of lawsuits resulting from workplace incidents. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2019 in the United States, private industry nonfatal injuries in the workplace were reported numbered 2.8 million. That’s an awful lot of injuries and an awful lot of potential litigation.
So, how do companies protect themselves? The first step is to ensure that incident reports are filled out honestly and to the best of the reporter’s ability. But, there’s more to it, especially if an injury or incident at work lands your company (or you for that matter) in court.
According to Immix Law, simply stamping confidential on an incident report won’t protect your company from having to divulge said document in court. In many of the US states, the document must qualify as a “work product” under the Work Product Doctrine. (source)
The incident report must meet three criteria to qualify as a work product. The incident report has to be:
- Documents or tangible things
- Prepared by a party or its representative
- In anticipation of litigation
As you can see, most incident reports fall short of being classified as documents created in anticipation of litigation. The kicker makes it challenging to keep these documents suppressed should a situation end up in court. After all, these documents are typically a part of everyday business, not prepared in anticipation of legal action.
The bottom line is that you have to be cognizant of what is writ in the report. And it exemplifies that a smart health and safety program includes Near Miss, Safety Leading Indicators, and Dangerous Situation reports at the minimum to aid in incident preventive actions. After all, if you can prevent incidents in the first place, you don’t have to worry about writing too many incident reports in the first place.
Remember to check with your lawyer for all the requirements in your state for reporting incidents, as this article does not constitute legal advice.
Tip: It’s a smart idea to include screening documentation in your incident reporting program to help maintain a safe and healthy work environment in these trying times we live in currently.
Writing An Incident Report In 11 Steps
Now that you’re prepared and armed with knowledge of incident report types, data to include, and legalities to keep in mind. So, what is the first step to write an incident report? The first step to writing an incident report is to determine the appropriate type of report based on the incident type.
1) Obtain The Appropriate Incident Report Type.
Our incident report writing journey begins with the selection of the appropriate document. Your company should have procedures in place for incidents and also have the proper documentation. If you aren’t sure, ask your manager which forms or reports you need for your particular situation.
If you require a downloadable template to get you started, you’ll find multiple Incident Report Templates here.
2) Complete The Administrative Section Of The Report.
The administrative section of your incident report will detail your name, location, time, date, and other information required on your incident report. Notice the cutaway of a near-miss report shown above. The first section of the IR is where the administrative report information is.
3) Completely Fill In Any Victim Information (If Applicable).
If the incident report type is an injury, you must record the victim (or victim’s) information. Take a look at the following cutaway from a generic Employee Injury Report. As you can see, the injured employee’s information, in this case, is included in the administrative area of the report.
4) Completely Fill In Any Witness Information (If Applicable).
Any witness or witnesses present for the incident should have their names and contact information recorded if someone needs to contact them at a later date.
5) Complete Any Section Of The Incident Report About Emergency Services Contacted.
A significant, if not essential, part of the incident report is the inclusion of emergency service information when these sorts of services are involved. If someone called the police, you should report the names, badge numbers, and division numbers of officers attending. If an injury occurred that resulted in emergency health care, the clinic, hospital, or other emergency service location where a person is taken or sent needs recording.
6) Detail The Events That Led Up To The Incident Occurring.
In many cases where an event occurs that deems an incident report is warranted, the incident is often preventable. An investigation of the root causes (root cause analysis) can reveal how someone could prevent the incident. Using Safety Leading Indicators to aid in this process is recommended.
For the details leading up to the incident, try to explain all the events that led up to the incident in as great detail as possible. Remember that there are few trivial points and some details may seem more relevant in hindsight, so ensure to include everything you can.
7) Detail The Environment And Conditions Present At The Time Of The Incident.
Sometimes incidents are no-fault and caused by environmental conditions. Even the first person on the scene might fall on the way to getting sand or salt to clear the ice when it’s icy on the ground. When these sort of uncontrollable incidents occur, or any incident for that matter, it is important to note any environmental conditions that may have contributed to or even caused the incident to occur. It could be poor visibility, icy or slippery ground, or any number of other atmospheric and environmental conditions that may have contributed.
8) Detail The Incident Itself, Noting Who Or What Was Affected.
The meat and potatoes of the incident report include the detail of the incident itself. In this section, one must pay close attention to detail and avoid the inclusion of emotion. It can be easy to incorrectly assess a situation during tense incidents and place blame before finding the truth.
When recording the details of the incident, you should attempt to write in an impartial encyclopedic fashion. Detail notes from the third person, adding descriptiveness to the narrative without including personal thoughts, feelings, or suspicions. An unbiased report does not blame individuals; it merely records the events in as truthful a manner as possible.
If a drawing, pictures, video, or other media is available, it is always prudent to include more details. However, a digital reporting solution like the 1ST Incident Reporting App can include digital media files to make your incident reporting that much better.
9) Detail The Actions Taken To Mitigate Hazards And Contain The Situation.
A vital component to the incident reporting process is including the steps taken to mitigate a hazard, help an injured person, or other action to control and aid in preventing further injury or damage from the incident.
Remember the part about the legal ramifications of what we write in the report? If a person is injured and you don’t write down how you provided the aid, you have no record of actually helping them.
10) Detail Any Recommendations Or Preventive Actions Required.
Like the section on immediate actions taken, we must transcribe any recommended further measures to mitigate hazards. These actions are those that cannot be quickly or easily implemented by the person writing the report. It might include fabricating new machine guards or obtaining traffic lights and sensors for a parking garage entrance. There are many possibilities here; the point is to attempt to do what we can to help prevent further incidents from occurring.
11) Finalize The Incident Report And Sign-off On Its Completion.
The incident report should now be complete. Any incident report’s finalization process should include a quick verification that all necessary information found its way onto the IR. Also, the three considerations before writing ought to find their way into your mind while you read over your report.
A Final Thought On Writing Incident Reports
A concise and encompassing health and safety reporting process is a necessity in today’s world for business. The mitigation of liability is imperative for business in today’s world, with so many possible incidents. And what better way to aid in incident prevention than by using an efficient reporting system.
If your business isn’t using a digital solution for your incident reporting, you’re missing out on a much more efficient way of preventing and documenting incidents.
Take the 1ST Incident Reporting App, for example. We’ve created a system to aid your business in making the reporting process simple for your staff. With features like near-instant custom notifications, easy document retrieval, and simple supplemental media uploading, a digital reporting solution’s effectiveness over a paper-based process is evident.