Incident Reporting

Does it really matter if we don’t report less serious incidents?

That probably depends on whether incident reporting is for the sake of compliance or to achieve a positive effect on safe work practices and the continuous improvement of your organisation overall.

If the former, then no. If the latter, then yes.

Staff who work alone and are respon­si­ble for their own safety. How­ever, there is wide­spread incon­sis­tency and under report­ing of all inci­dents including those involving aggres­sive behaviours.  The num­ber and sever­ity of reported inci­dents is far lower than that of actual incidents.  This may lead to inaccurate assess­ment of risk result­ing in poor deci­sions being made about safety.

What are the con­tribut­ing fac­tors inhibit­ing the report­ing of incidents?

Staff may become desen­sitised to, and con­se­quently accept, a cer­tain level of aggres­sion as part of the job. This is par­tic­u­larly so when the staff mem­ber believes the aggres­sor did not intend to cause them harm.

Other exam­ples include sit­u­a­tions where staff mem­bers believe that:

  • Report­ing an inci­dent is inef­fi­cient and takes too long;
  • Col­leagues do not share the per­cep­tion that there is a risk to safety;
  • Inci­dents involving aggressive behaviours may rep­re­sent pro­fessional fail­ure on the part of the staff member;
  • Man­age­ment may think the staff mem­ber does not have the skills to han­dle dif­fi­cult sit­u­a­tions, or that the staff mem­ber may be seen as the cause of the incident;
  • Cor­rec­tive action is unlikely to be taken should the staff member take the time to report an inci­dent; and/or
  • Debrief­ing and sup­port for staff is unavailable.


When incident reporting is done well

When incident reporting is done well the right balance is struck between the amount of detail required to complete an incident report and the administrative ease to submit a report.  This promotes a culture where ALL incidents are reported.  You will then be able to identify trends in the severity and frequency of incidents.

You will be able to identify escalating and de-escalating trends for individual staff members and groups of staff members, for individual clients and groups of clients.

Being able to identify the trends will enable supervisors and managers to understand what (or who) is and is not working well, and provide the opportunity to address those areas earlier.

Accurate data on the incidents that are affecting your workforce also provides for an excellent evidence based assessment of the strategies you are using.

When we talk about reporting of incidents, more and more consideration is given to psychological injuries.  If I was to take a fall today and fracture my wrist, it is clear what incident caused the fracture and for whom I was working for at the time of the incident.  Therefore it is also clear who will be paying the workers compensation claim.

However it will not always be so clear which particular incident(s) contributed significantly to a worker’s psychological injury. With accurate reporting of all incidents, this task may become easier.

Achieve a positive effect on safe work practices

If you want to achieve a positive effect on safe work practices and the continuous improvement of the organisation overall, then organisations should imple­ment strate­gies to min­imise the under-report­ing of inci­dents.

For many organ­i­sa­tions, con­sid­er­a­tion should be given to stream­lin­ing the inci­dent report­ing process and con­tin­u­ing to nur­ture the cul­ture of report­ing of all inci­dents and near misses.

Systems should be in place to quickly report high frequency incidents.

When reported inci­dents more accu­rately rep­re­sent actual inci­dents, all con­cerned will share a bet­ter under­stand­ing of the risks involved.  This will enable more mean­ing­ful col­lab­o­ra­tion on safe work prac­tices and strategies to effec­tively reduce the num­ber and sever­ity of actual inci­dents.

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Travis Holland
Managing Director
Holland Thomas
Travis Holland email address

My Safety Buddy. Find out more.

Should you wish to discuss strategies to improve your staff’s safety in their work environment, please feel welcome to contact Holland Thomas.
Our goal at Holland Thomas is to create safer workplaces that enhance wellbeing for all concerned whilst also delivering improved operational and financial performance.

This blog draws on our years of experience delivering our M.A.B.™ Staff Safety Training (Contextualised Prevention and Management of Aggressive Behaviours) across Australia and the development of My Safety Buddy, our smartphone app and web portal based lone worker safety solution.

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