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Incident Report Guide: 5 Elements of a Good Incident Report

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What is an Incident Report?

An incident report is a tool that documents any event that may or may not have caused injuries to a person or damage to a company asset. It is used to capture injuries and accidents, near misses, property and equipment damage, health and safety issues, security breaches and workplace misconduct.

An incident report can be used in the investigation and analysis of an event. It includes the root cause and corrective actions to eliminate the risks involved and prevent similar future occurrences. Incident reports can also be used as safety documents which indicate potential risks and uncontrolled hazards found in the workplace.

An incident report can be used by:

  • an authority to create a report of an incident;
  • an employee to report an incident he/ she has witnessed;
  • a member of the organization to raise awareness about an incident that has occurred in the workplace.

Incident reporting is the process of documenting all workplace injuries, near misses and accidents. An incident report should be completed at the time an incident occurs no matter how minor an injury is. This article covers an in-depth explanation of what an incident report is and the types of events you should report.

What is Considered an Incident?

Generally, an incident is defined as any event, condition or situation which:

  • Causes disruption or interference to an organization;
  • Causes significant risks that could affect members within an organization;
  • Impacts on the systems and operation of workplaces; and/ or
  • Attracts negative media attention or a negative profile for the workplace

What Type of Incidents Should be Reported?

The rule of thumb is that as soon as an incident occurs, an incident report should be completed. Minor injuries should be reported and taken as equally important as major injuries are. These injuries may get worse and lead to more serious injuries or health issues. Employers, managers and safety officials should be aware of the different situations and events that should be reported.

Here are 4 types of incidents you should report:

  1. Sentinel events – these are unexpected occurrences that resulted in serious physical or psychological injury or death (e.g. slips, trips and falls, natural disasters, vehicle accidents, disease outbreak, etc.).
  2. Near misses – these are situations where the people involved had no injuries but could have been potentially harmed by the risks detected.
  3. Adverse events – related to medicine, vaccines and medical devices. These events occur when an act of commission or omission harmed a patient rather than from the existing disease or condition.
  4. No harm events – these are incidents that need to be communicated across an organization to raise awareness of any harm that may happen.

5 Elements of a Good Incident Report

An incident report should state all the essential information about the accident or near-miss. It should contain the following key elements to ensure that all facts and necessary details are complete and properly documented.

An incident report should be:

  1. Accurate
    All data must be clear and specific. Most inaccuracies are due to typos and simple grammar and spelling errors (e.g. incorrect details of names of people involved, date and time of the incident, contact numbers, etc.). Provide more specific details of what you are referring to and avoid any vague statements that may cause confusion. Lastly, always proofread your report before submission to see errors that you might have overlooked.
  2. Factual
    An incident report should be objective and supported by facts. Avoid including emotional, opinionated and biased statements in the incident report. It should provide both sides of the story and should not favor one side. However, if there’s a need to include statements from witnesses or patients, make sure to quote them.
  3. Complete
    Ensure that all essential questions (what, where, when, why and how) are covered in the incident report. Record not only the people who were injured and what caused the accident to happen, but also include details such as people who witnessed and reported the incident or those who will conduct an investigation. Anticipate what other significant details will be needed for any future study and investigation.
  4. Graphic
    Photos, diagrams, and illustrations should be included as supporting evidence. Take many photos of the injury, damage and surrounding environment. This supplements the facts stated and provides more clarity to be easily understood by the recipient.
  5. Valid
    Upon completion, those who are involved in the incident (e.g. victim, witnesses, manager, reporter, etc.) should sign off to testify and validate all the information that was mentioned in the incident report. This confirms that the incident report is truthful and unquestionable.

Sample Incident Reporting Format

The layout of information in an incident report form may vary depending on a number of factors. As a general rule, you should write incident reports in third person since its purpose is to be objective; stating only facts and avoiding the inclusion of opinions and biases. Below is a sample incident reporting format you can use for your operations. It contains all the essential information you would need to include in order to complete an effective incident report:

  1. Introduction
    The first part of the incident report form covers the who, what, when, and where of the incident:
    – Include the names of all the people involved in the incident. If names are not available, you can instead cite the person’s role in relation to the incident e.g. the customer, the guest.
    – Summarize the incident itself in no more than three sentences e.g. a printer caught fire causing minimal damage to a room
    – Include the time and date of occurrence. An estimate works if the exact time could not be noted 
    – Note the location of the incident and be exact if possible e.g. the Mercato Conference Room, 19th floor Building A.
  2. Body
    This is your chance to lay out all of the incident’s details in a comprehensive manner. Talk about the incident from start to finish, ensuring details are laid out in chronological order to avoid confusion. Make sure to include the who, what, when, and where mentioned in the introduction when they are mentioned.
  3. Conclusion
    Was the incident resolved? How? If the incident was not resolved, explain why and provide the steps that need to be taken in order to resolve it.
  4. Sign off
    Include the full name and signature of the incident report writer for accountability and record-keeping.

What to do After Completing an Incident Report?

The incident report should be submitted to an investigation team to further study and look for deeper causes. An investigation should be conducted by those who are competent in collecting and analyzing information and evidence gathered from the incident report. Those conducting the investigation should be knowledgeable in occupational health and safety fundamentals.

The purpose of investigating an incident is not to find fault but to determine the root cause and develop corrective actions to prevent similar incidents from happening. An investigation also helps fulfill regulatory requirements (such as OSHA 300 Forms in the United States) and determines the costs involved with property or equipment damage (if any).

Better Record Keeping of Incident Reports

Incident reports should be properly kept as they are an important record of every organization. Creating incident reports can be time-consuming and requires rigorous documentation of the incident. However, understanding the purpose of incident reporting will help the organization determine the root cause of an incident and set corrective measures to eliminate potential risks. iAuditor is the world’s #1 inspection app and can be used to streamline the completion and record-keeping of incident reports. With the iAuditor mobile app and web platform you can:

  • Perform paperless incident reports on your hand-held device
  • Take unlimited photo evidence attached to your incident reports
  • Gather witness statements using auto-dictation
  • Capture electronic signatures
  • Generate detailed incident reports without leaving the site
  • Unlimited secure cloud storage and easy record keeping of all incidents for regulatory purposes

Get started with iAuditor by downloading these top 10 incident report templates you can download and customize for free.

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Carlo Sheen Escano

SafetyCulture staff writer

A writer based in Makati City, Philippines. Sheen has been writing for SafetyCulture since 2018. His articles mainly discuss risks in the workplace and well-known safety and quality measures and processes used to mitigate them.