How To Qualify Incidents And Observations In The Workplace

Accidents and near-accidents happen on worksites more often than we’d like. Fortunately, there are regulations in place to handle these mishaps. 

Do you know how to handle incident reporting in your business? In this article, we look at the facts about identifying the category of incidents and how to qualify observations in the workplace.

The Categorisation Of Incidents

Work-related incidents can be broken down into six categories:

  1. Positive observation
  2. Unsafe acts
  3. Near misses
  4. Minor injuries 
  5. Lost-time injuries
  6. Fatalities

When an incident occurs, it’s important to file an incident report. There are four main types of incident reports in the workplace:

  1. Reports of near misses - when an accident is narrowly averted
  2. Injury and lost time reports - an incident that injures a worker and halts their duties 
  3. Reports of exposure - exposure to harmful chemicals, for example 
  4. Sentinel event reports - these deal with more serious injuries and fatalities

There are many different types of incidents that can take place on a worksite. The categories and report types above show the basic areas that they fall into. But, within each category, different types of incidents and accidents can occur. 

While there are numerous different types of incidents, here are some common examples:

  • Tripping over wires
  • Falling from heights
  • Slipping and falling
  • Muscle strains
  • Exposure to hazardous chemicals
  • Bumping into overhead booms
  • Work-related illnesses
  • Inhaling toxic fumes
  • Crashes or collisions
  • Exposure to loud noises


How To Qualify Whether An Observation Is An Incident Or Not

Safety observations are different from incidents. A safety observation is when the safety manager, a supervisor or anyone in the organisation identifies a safety risk or unsafe action or behaviour. That safety observation should be duly reported so that the relevant party can take corrective action. 

Safety observations are crucial in the identification and elimination of safety risks, as well as the reinforcement of safety protocols. 

Regular safety checks and safety walks will quickly bring any potential hazards to the attention of the safety manager. Then, corrective measures can be put in place to prevent an incident from occurring. If, however, the safety hazard in question has already resulted in harm to any employee, even if narrowly averted, it should be written up and reported as an incident.


How To Report Incidents

The company should have an incident reporting platform with a form that deals with the different types of incident categories. This form will collect the answers to some very important questions about the incident, such as the type of incident, the exact nature of the incident, and any supporting evidence. 

These questions aim to find out what happened, where it happened, how it happened, and to whom. Photos should also be taken to document the situation, including all damage to property, mechanical breaks, and injuries to employees. 

While the form should not be too long, it must allow the reporter to answer all questions with as much detail as possible.


Who Is Responsible For Incident Reporting And Management In The Organisation?

Every organisation should have a safety manager to oversee its incident reports. They will be responsible for reporting back to higher management and following up on reports. 

When it comes to actually reporting incidents, all employees are responsible. When everyone is involved and knows the process for reporting incidents, it means reporting rates increase. As a result, safety managers can better mitigate risks and put corrective measures in place more efficiently. 

It’s important that all employees are familiar with the chain of command so that they know who will handle incidents as they occur. This makes it more likely that they will report an incident as they know it will be addressed.


Why Is Incident Categorisation Important For Different Layers Of The Organisation?

Everyone from the workers to the supervisors, right through to management has a role to play in safety.  So, incident categorisation is important at all levels. At the bottom, employees on the floor need to understand how to categorise incidents so that they can correctly and accurately report incidents when they occur. 

At a management level, organisations can use incident categorisation data to drive their safety strategies, policies and regulations. They can see which categories of incidents occur the most and least frequently. This enables them to prioritise safety measures and put better systems in place where needed.


Why Does Incident Reporting Matter To Each Level Of The Organisation?

Incident reporting is indispensable in any workplace. You simply can’t improve the safety management of your organisation without it. 

Incident reporting helps to improve safety for all employees. It identifies hazards and risks present in the workplace so that you can resolve them. This helps to improve employee safety as well as satisfaction and experience. They know that they are in good hands and that you will take action when a report is made. 

Investing in good incident management and reporting also saves costs, which benefits the entire organisation. It does this by mitigating safety risks and preventing serious, costly accidents.


How To Use Incident Reports And Categorisation Effectively

Safety managers need to be aware of how to assess and categorise incidents in the workplace. In addition to this, there are various steps you can take to improve the entire process. 

You can optimise incident reporting and categorisation by following these tips:

  • Constantly communicate with employees about the importance of timeous and accurate reporting and categorisation of any and every incident.
  • Use technology, such as a mobile incident management platform or incident reporting software, to streamline the process of incident reports.
  • Stay informed with relevant statistics and past incident data.
  • Be transparent about incidents that have occurred. Provide not only management but also employees with feedback about measures being taken.

Final Thoughts

The health and safety of your employees are of the utmost importance in any work setting. It is the responsibility of management in any industrial setting to understand categories of incidents and how to report them. This will ensure a safer and more responsible work environment for everyone.


If your organisation is looking for a 360° incident management tool to involve all employees, service providers and external stakeholders to improve the quality of your operations, have a look at the 30-day free trial of the Falcony Platform:

Falcony free trial

We are building the world's first operational involvement platform. Our mission is to make the process of finding, sharing, fixing and learning from issues and observations as easy as thinking about them and as rewarding as being remembered for them.‍

By doing this, we are making work more meaningful for all parties involved.

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