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Incident Reporting Isn't The Same For All Workers

Incident Reporting Varies By Employee Role

You may not realize it, but you likely don't put the same level of responsibility for incident reporting on all of your employees. Just think about it. Do you expect a general laborer to write a full incident report? Or do you expect them to report what happened to their immediate lead or supervisor? It's been my experience that you tend to have either a dedicated safety person, administrative assistant, or member of management write the report.

Sure, the general laborer that was involved in the incident will need to relay the events of what happened to the lead or supervisor. That lead or supervisor then relays it to the person doing the written report. That same laborer will probably be involved in any subsequent investigation so that the investigator can better understand what happened. But you can probably already start seeing the difference in expectations. There's nothing wrong with that. Dare I say it's normal to have things set up in that way. Some employees are just in a better position to deal with the higher level functions of incident reporting than others.

Do You Give The Same Incident Reporting Training To Everyone?

We've just established that it's fine to have different levels of involvement in the incident reporting process. So now it's time to ask if your company gives the same level of incident reporting training to all its employees. If the answer is yes, and for some companies it is, the question becomes why? I can see the simplicity in giving people the same training. Often, simple is good. But using that approach, here, isn't time efficient.

A major complaint I've heard from operations and production is the time requirement to perform training. Fair enough. It can be quite a lengthy time commitment to training employees. That said, many if not most agree that employees doing a job need to be properly trained prior to doing that job. So, what are the key things that general employees need to know when reporting? Well, here is a short list to help answer the question.

  • They need to have a general understanding of what ever reporting requirements the company has.

    • This will include any penalties for failing to report an incident.

    • This may also include the preliminary evaluation for medical attention should it be applicable.

      • You don't want employees going on their own to seek out medical attention for work related injuries. There is a process for that.

  • They need to know and understand the general types of things they need to report such as:

    • [Near Miss Example]: two forklift operators almost hit each other

    • [First Aid Example]: minor cut of a finger while removing pallet straps

    • [Property Damage Example]: fire developed while welding

    • [Environmental Incident]: spilled hydraulic fluid outside of containment

  • They need to know how quickly they are expected to report incidents.

    • This is usually immediately or as soon as it's safe to do so.

  • They need to know who to report the incident to.

    • This is usually who ever the direct lead or supervisor is.

This can work as long as you don't expect general employees to do reports, or they don't have some greater responsibilities to incident response. It's also wise to train them on the basics of participating in an investigation. If you keep things simple, you can drastically reduce the amount of time needed to properly train someone in incident reporting. You know what that means? That means most of your employees can spend more time doing the things they were primarily hired for. That's got to be worth something!

Don't Let Employees Clean Up The Evidence!

You absolutely can't let employees clean up the evidence of an incident before there's been a chance to investigate the scene. You may miss out on key clues that can shed light on what happened and potentially on how to fix things. It's definitely understandable that if a particularly bad incident happens, that the scene needs to be made safe. That means actions may need to be taken that negatively impact evidence collection but improve the situation. Do what you have to do for those incidents.

Depending on the company culture, sometimes employees have a strong "get er done" mentality even when it comes to dealing with incidents. I've experienced that first hand. It took an attentive plant manager to make me and a member of his staff aware of the issue. So, we jumped at the lead he gave us and got to investigating. It's important for management to remember that incidents aren't generally supposed to happen. They need to convey that strongly through word and deed to the employees. You need evidence to get to the bottom of things so that the problems can be corrected now and in the future.

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