Incident Reporting: 7 Reasons Why It's Indispensable

Incidents and observations come in many types: safety incidents and accidents, near misses, environmental observations, IT security incidents, claims and flaws in facility or in work environment. Most of us are aware when we see something out of condition and the most thoughtful of us even do the work to fix it, which we call corrective action process. Why is it then not enough to just force everyone in the organisation to correct the faults and defects they notice and pay reward and recognition for it?

Here are seven reasons why incident and observation reporting is indispensable whether you are a small-sized company or a global player!

1. Minor incidents and observations help to find out why serious incidents do not occur

Most incident report forms identify the barriers that prevent adverse situations from developing into a major accident or disaster. On a large scale this might mean the avoidance of environmental disaster such as The Talvivaara case or just a line between life and death of an employee. On a smaller scale we talk about observations that mitigate issues such as occupational diseases or discomforts or just waste.

The insights that are collected are very important. They help safety, security, environmental, quality and facility managers to identify where additional support is required in order to guarantee that no major incidents happen.

2. More incidents and observations mean more data to analyse

And it’s not just the amount of observation but also the frequency of them that permit the quantitative analysis. Accidents many times begin and develop from atypical occasions. Thus they themselves provide relatively little information about the possibility of future incidents. In contrast, the more and the higher frequency of incidents, the greater insights they give of human error, systems failure, site comparisons, regulatory weaknesses etc.

3. Incidents and observations keep us aware

They provide a reminder of possible hazards. Reporting them provide a way to monitor potential problems and root causes as they recur. The documentation of these problems and root causes increases the likelihood that repeating failures will be noticed and corrected before they develop to more serious incidents.

4. Feedback from incidents keep the observers aboard

Incident reporting provides a way to encourage employee participation in improvement whether it’s about safety, quality, environmental or security. Everyone can see that their concerns are treated seriously and are acted upon by the organisation. In the end the culture of improvement can be created with two-way communication and everyone being part of it.

5. Lessons learned within the organisation and benchmarks between industries

The gathered data can be used for comparisons both within and between organisations and industries. Even though the incident categories and types differ between industries, verticals and even functions, the habit of being aware in the field and documenting the observations is the same.

6. Reporting is cheaper than the costs of a major incident

The average cost of occupational accident ranges from thousands to tens of thousands euros between industries and countries. Thus even in a global organisation that has tens of thousands of employees and service-providers, the cost of maintaining the incident reporting program and/or software is many times cheaper than the cost of accidents or major incident.


7. Incident reporting is a key habit that creates culture

Each organisational culture is a set of habits, values, thoughts and beliefs. In organisation-level development areas such as health, safety, quality and environment, the habits are the keystones that affect the culture the most. If you want to create safety culture, start collecting safety observations. If you want to create culture of quality improvement, start collecting quality observations. If you want to raise environmental awareness, start collecting environmental observations.

To stay ahead, and ensure your company's culture is one that prevents accidents and maintains safety, we recommend implementing VUCA.

Do you still question the importance of reporting incidents? Download our FREE guide about Metrics and Safety KPIs for additional reading:

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Arttu Vesterinen

Chief Executive Officer