Encouraging incident reporting in the workplace is a great tool for risk management and creating a safer, healthier, work environment. Employees should be encouraged to report on all workplace incidents so that the risks they face every day can be understood and managed by the business.
The importance of reporting an incident, no matter how small, should not be underestimated. While all businesses should be carrying out risk assessments as a basic legal requirement, some risks remain hidden and are best revealed through reporting.
Aside from personal harm, accidents can also have a detrimental effect on a business, such as reputational damage, compensation, fines and other penalties.
Legal risk management requirements
In many countries, reporting accidents and fatalities as a business is a legal requirement.
In the UK, incidents and fatalities should be reported under the Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations 2013 (RIDDOR).
The information provided through incident reporting is used to assess whether current controls are adequate, to identify trends and to ultimately focus efforts on reducing areas where incidents are high. Records can also be used in legal procedures to ensure the right people are held responsible for an accident or fatality.
Encouraging your staff to report incidents will allow you to meet your legal requirements as a business and aid in the prevention and reduction of workplace incidents.
If you are unsure as to what legislation you are accountable to, bodies such as the HSE in the UK, OSHA in Canada, Safe Work in Australia and WorkSafe in New Zealand, provide a breakdown of the legislation and guides on what should be reported and by whom. You can also find more information on health and safety legislation in your region, including practical tips for keeping your staff safe, in our Guide to Lone Working.
Unfortunately, studies show that incident reporting is not always happening.
One industry where under-reporting appears that this is rife is housing. According to a survey conducted by Inside Housing
- Out of the 62 respondents to our survey who said they were the victims of attacks, one in three didn’t report the incident at work.
- Of those who didn’t report, 68% said that they didn’t bother because the “incidents are just part of the job” and 13% said they didn’t have the time.
- Overall, 36% also said they didn’t report assaults because they believed their employers wouldn’t do anything in response.
Undoubtedly this trend is reflected in other industries but by its very nature, under-reporting is hard to measure.
The importance of incident reporting
In many cases, employees may not realise the potential consequences of under-reporting. Take for example an employee working on a building site. A piece of tilling comes loose and the builder loses their footing. They regain their balance and continue with their task. Days later, another builder is sent to the site to carry out work on the same building. This time they fall and injure themselves. Had the first incident been reported, steps could have been taken to ensure the building environment was safe and the accident prevented.
In another scenario, a community nurse has been working with a client for several months. The client has been mildly verbally aggressive on several occasions but the nurse accepts this as ‘part of the job’ and continues to carry out home visits alone. One day the client becomes increasingly irritated and lashes out at the nurse, physically attacking them. Had a report been filed previously, the business may have chosen to carry out a risk assessment on the client and ensured future visits took place in a safer, controlled environment.
Incident Reporting enables employers to carry out more accurate risk assessments as they are aware of all potential and existing risks and can put safety measures in place accordingly.
Need to carry out a risk assessment for your business? Download our free Risk Assessment Guide and Template
Creating a safety culture
Encouraging employees to report on risks is the best path to a better understanding of the work environment and risk management.
A study by the Perelman School of Medicine found that reporting can improve safety measures, safety performance and employee’s perceptions of safety. As part of the study, a Conditions Reporting System was put into place within a radiation oncology department. All employees were encouraged to report on any incidents and errors they came across no matter how small. Although the purpose of the research focused on improving patient safety, the study found that through this increased reporting an open, healthy ‘safety culture’ had been created amongst staff. Not only was the employer able to learn from reported events and develop improved safety measures, but the staff were more engaged in maintaining a safe working environment.
An open, safety conscious culture is likely to improve employee satisfaction, well-being and productivity. Employees will become more alert to workplace risks and in turn take extra steps to ensure that they and the business are operating safely. Knowing that their employer will take action if a risk or incident is reported creates a sense of security and confidence that they are being cared for and, of course, reduces the number of accidents that occur.
Tips for encouraging incident reporting in your workplace
- Educate all staff members (including managers and supervisors) on the importance of reporting
- Brief all staff on the types of risks they should look out for and report on
- Reiterate that no perceived or actual risk or incident is too small to report
- Ensure everyone knows how to report an incident, when and to whom
- Consider creating an online, anonymous method of reporting incidents
- Or you may choose to hold a weekly meeting where incidents are discussed openly
- Do not punish employees for reporting an incident and avoid assigning blame
- Instead focus on removing the risk rather than fault finding
- Track and record all reports
- Provide ongoing feedback on how you are dealing with an incident so that your employees can see that you are doing something with the information they provide
- You may want to consider implementing an incentive program when first introducing a new reporting system to encourage employees to get involved with the new process
The StaySafe app enables staff to raise an alert in the event of an incident and receive assistance to their exact location immediately. Many employers have found that the StaySafe app helps them to lower the risks faced by staff by ensuring the help will reach them quickly in an emergency. The app also records all activity, including resolved incidents, for accurate reporting. Find out more about the StaySafe app.