7 Essential Elements of an Incident Report, and a Free Template to Get You Started
Incident reports are crucial to establishing safety for employees as well as establishing best practices in the workplace. Properly documenting incidents helps identify dangers in the work environment and avoid situations that could potentially endanger people. Most importantly, a well-written incident report can help ensure that your company is compliant with governmental labor regulations and standards. Every company has unique guidelines when filing incident reports. How one organization operates on a day-to-day basis is most likely different from how your company operates. You don’t have to copy their exact format or template. Instead, come up with a guideline that bespeaks your company systems and procedures. But the structure and the essential inclusions are just the same.
The incident report must be factual and complete. It should include:
- the names and positions of the people involved
- the names of any witnesses
- the exact location and/or address of the incident
- the exact time and date of the occurrence
- a detailed and clear description of what exactly happened
- a description of the injuries
Because no information must be left out, it’s crucial to start writing the report as soon as possible. The longer you wait, the more difficult it can be to accurately document the details of the incident. It’s best to do the write-up when the everyone’s memory of the incident is still fresh.
The document must be accurate and free of grammatical or spelling errors. Ideally, there shouldn’t be any corrections—especially if it is handwritten. If any corrections must be made, every deleted or added word may need to be initialed by the witnesses. The last thing you want is for the report to be interpretable in different ways. Read the report multiple times and look for any gaps that need to be filled in. Is there a missing part of the story? Could any piece of the story be further clarified? Remember to include not only the actual incident but the events that took place before and after as well.
Avoid using emotional words and statements that describe feelings. The report must be factual and be free of sarcasm, condescending statements, and judgmental remarks. The person in charge of the written reporting is expected to rely purely on facts, able to detect and avoid personal biases and opinions. For that to happen, he or she must not allow earlier or external information to influence the report.
Remember that these are legal documents that may be utilized by police and courts to investigate the incident. It should clearly state if it is about any of the following:
- Physical injury
- Property destruction
- Work-related accidents
- Theft or robbery
- Aggressive behavior
- Serious illness
- Imminent death
- Illegal and criminal acts
- Disruptive situations
If you’re not sure whether a report is necessary, consider the wisdom of “better safe than sorry.”. If the incident is extreme, it may be good to immediately call the police. Finally, always check with your country's labor regulations to ensure that your company is fully compliant.
Cause of Incident
If the exact cause of the incident remains undetermined after the initial investigation, it is okay to share hypotheses as long as they are clearly identified that way in the report. Include statements of witnesses, sketches, and photos whenever possible. If available, security footage should be referenced as well.
The completed report must be signed by the supervisor or manager in charge at the time of the incident. As the authorized signatory, he or she must read the report and ensure that it is clear, legible, and accurate, and that the company guidelines for incident reporting have been strictly followed.
Because reports almost always include sensitive and confidential information, such as an employee’s health concerns, incident reporting must be done with the involved parties’ privacy in mind. Only authorized personnel should be able to review the report details.
Best Practices for Filling Out Incident Report Forms
Every company must have a protocol for incident reporting. Only people of authority should be given access to this document. They can use it for documentation of unfortunate events, management of risks, and creation of safety measures as mandated by the law. The following best practices should be observed when filling up the form:
- Practice a sense of urgency. Fill out the report form and file it within 24 hours.
- Include small details and all pertinent data.
- The supervisor should verify the information in the report.
- Only the person that is directly involved in the incident can fill out the form.
- Be thorough and avoid making corrections.
- Don't assume that the reader will understand general statements.
- Keep it confidential and don't let unauthorized individuals read the information.
- Sign the document when done.
- Inform the police or healthcare professionals when necessary.
Every employee of your company should undergo a seminar or training with regards to handling an incident at work. In this way, they will know how to report an incident when something happens. Finally, going paperless can help you avoid losing crucial documents. Digital forms, like the free template below, are a great alternative to old-fashioned paperwork.