We all do our best to ensure a happy and healthy workforce. That’s why, in a perfect world, you would never have to create an incident report.
But since incidents do happen, it’s never a bad idea to be prepared for any situation–especially the unexpected.
Small business owners, Human Resources teams and Workplace Emergency First Responders: please rejoice as this is the article for you!
In this step-by-step guide, we’ll share our top tips on creating incident reports that aid in conducting effective investigations, to ensure that similar (or more serious) incidents don’t happen again.
Table of Contents:
- What is an Incident Report?
- Incident Report Examples, Templates and Design Tips
- How to Write an Incident Report
1. What is an Incident Report?
An incident report is a form to document all workplace illnesses, injuries, near misses and accidents. An incident report should be completed at the time an incident occurs no matter how minor an injury is.
Any illness or injury that impacts an employee’s ability to work must be noted. The specifics of what is required by law to be included in an incident report will vary depending on the federal or provincial legislation that affects your workplace.
If you’re unsure, you can take a look at your government’s website for more details. In certain cases, there are exceptions that can exempt small businesses from complying with such legislation.
2. Incident Report Examples and Design Tips
Here are some examples of incident reports to help you get started. I’ve also included some report design tips to help you present your information effectively. We’ve also got a comprehensive guide to general report design if you want to dig a bit deeper into the topic.
Incorporate your branding into your report design
As with any document you create for your business, it’s good practice to incorporate your branding into your incident reports. (Psst–Venngage’s Brand Kit feature makes it easy to add your branding in just a click!)
Include your brand colors into your design. You can do this by using them in the report header, footer, side bar, and in any visuals.
You may also want to include your logo, like in this incident report template:
You could also use your brand colors in the background of your incident report:
Organize your information into sections using boxes
To make your information as readable as possible, organize it into sections. One of the easiest ways to do this is by using boxes.
For example, take a look at how these incident report templates use boxes to section off the information:
This incident report example also uses rectangles to denote section headers:
Color code the sections of your incident report
Colors aren’t just great for making your reports, presentations and charts more interesting to look at. You can also use color to organize sections of your report and to draw attention to key information.
For more tips on using color in your designs, read our guide on how to pick colors to communicate effectively.
Add a visual header to your incident report
As part of your company branding, you may want to add a visual header to your reports. For example, this incident report template uses a neutral photo with a color filter to create a professional header:
You can do this in Venngage by overlaying a photo on a color background and adjusting the opacity of the photo:
You can use the same effect for side bars as well:
Make a mock form to offer news team members as an example
If you’re transitioning in staff or something happens when the individual who owns incident reports is away, it’s very important that there is a process documented. That will ensure that if someone is put on the spot, they can fill in the incident report properly.
It can also be helpful to add brief descriptions of the type of information to include in each field. Take a look at how this incident report example offers some brief text to guide the person filling it out:
Use icons to visualize concepts
Icons are small, compact visuals that can be used to reinforce information in your reports. You can also use them to draw attention to specific fields and important pieces of information.
For example, this incident report template uses icons to indicate the purpose of each field:
3. How to Write an Incident Report
It’s important to establish a systematic method for investigating incidents.
It’s also equally important to have a report prepared that enables you to record every relevant aspect of the incident–this is the essential first step in the incident reporting process.
After you’ve created your incident report form, you can:
- Begin your investigation with fact-finding
- And end your investigation with determining recommendations for preventing both an increase in severity of the incident and the possibility of a recurrence.
To write any incident reports, follow the basic format described below.
1. Take Immediate Action
Employees of your organization should notify their manager or another member of the company’s leadership committee as soon as an incident occurs–regardless of the nature of the event (whether it be an accident, illness, injury or near miss).
That being said, there needs to be communication channels clearly defined to promote the practice of employees coming forward in these situations and the importance of such.
Once an incident has been reported, the member of leadership’s first responsibility is to ensure that appropriate treatment, if necessary, is being administered to those affected by the event.
On this note: if the hazard still exists, the manager that the event has been reported to must eliminate the hazard by controlling it. Each company should have a defined procedure for accomplishing this based on the nature of their work.
For example, if there was a spill that caused a fall. You would attend to the victim and promptly have the spill wiped up and identify the area as a hazard by using a sign.
2. Collect the Facts
Once the immediate action including the response to the event and eliminating the hazard from the environment has been conducted, it’s time to determine and record the facts related to the incident.
Facts related to the incident include:
Identify the specific location, time and date of the incident. This information is fundamental to the investigation and the most obvious information to collect.
Collect details of those involved and/or affected by the incident. This would entail recording the name(s) of the individual(s) involved, their job title(s), the department(s) they operate in the manager(s) of those affected.
Speak to any witnesses of the event to collect their perspective of the event. Record their statements as detailed and accurately as possible in the form.
To ensure accuracy, it’s best practice to review your notes with the witness to ensure they agree with how the event is portrayed on the report. It’s also important to include the name(s) of any witnesses in the report in case any additional questioning is required.
Consider and document the events that occurred leading up to the incident. Ask:
- What was the employee doing?
- Who asked them to complete the task? How was the employee feeling prior to the incident? …etc.
It is important to identify which factors were an outcome of the incident and which factors were present prior to the incident and could be a potential contributing factor to the incident occurring.
In the report, you must specify the actions of those involved at the time of the incident. What did the employee do that led to the incident?
For example, if an employee injured their back when lifting a box at work, it is important to determine how that employee lifted the box to decide if that contributed to their injury. If yes, then inquire if this employee was trained properly for this task and by who or what source?
Identify and record environmental conditions that contributed to the event. Was there inadequate lighting? Was a piece of equipment not operating properly? Was the employees visibility obstructed by a glare or blind spot? Etc.
Record detailed descriptions of specific injuries and evaluate the severity of such in the report. This description should include part(s) of body injured, nature and extent of injuries.
It is also important to document in the incident report the type of treatment administered for the acknowledged injuries. This information is important to document in order to understand how the employee recovers when reviewing the specifics of the event.
Record an account of any damage to equipment, materials, etc that was affected by the incident. This will be helpful to refer back during the analysis of the event in order to consider a both a corrective action plan and to determine what items will need to be repaired or replaced.
3. Analyze and Reflect
Collecting and recording the facts related to the occurrence of the incident will aid in determining how the incident occurred. Analyzing the collected facts related to the incident will aid in determining why the incident occurred.
Analyzing and determining how and why the incident occurred is essential in order to develop an effective corrective action plan.
Potential causes for accidents or injuries that occurred in the workplace could include:
- Primary causes (for example, an unsalted ice patch on a set of stairs that caused a slip and fall).
- Secondary causes (for example, an employee not wearing appropriate personal protective equipment, such as a hard helmet or eyewear).
- Other contributing causes (for example: a burned out light bulb in the area causing poor visibility).
4. Establish a Corrective Action Plan
A Corrective Action Plan would provide recommendations as a means to reduce the possibility of a continued issue and/or recurrence of the incident. The recommendations would result from an effective analysis of the facts collected and documented in the incident report.
Elements of an effective Corrective Action Plan could include:
- Occupational Health & Safety training for employees
- Preventative routine maintenance processes that ensure equipment is in proper working condition
- A review of job practices and procedures with a recommendation for changes to reduce the risk of incidents
- Conducting a job hazard analysis to determine if other potential hazards are associated with the task and/or environment and then training employees on these hazards based on the findings of the assessment
- Engineering, equipment or PPE changes/upgrades to ensure the task or the process of completing said task poses less risk
Although being prepared for the unexpected is often difficult, preventative measures are the cornerstone of maintaining a happy and healthy working environment for yourself and your workforce.
Incident reports are a not only a defining piece in any company’s incident response protocol, but they provide a means to avoid recurring mishaps and/or inspire change.
That’s why it is crucial to have a relevant and comprehensive incident report form prepared and on hand for any incident that may arise. By adhering to your jurisdiction’s legislation and considering the four components prescribed above, you’ll be well prepared to handle incidents effectively.
The effect of responding to workplace incidents in a timely and detail-oriented manner will not only ensure a safe workplace, but also:
- Reassure your employees that their employer is prepared to take the right steps in any situation
- Ensure all appropriate parties are fully informed of incidents
- Establish a record of incidents for future reference
- Protect both you/your company and your employees from lawsuits and disputes
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