Why I Love Incident Reports

As a manager, I was a big fan of incident reports – completed ones that is!  Why?

They taught me a lot

Whenever I investigated an incident, I would learn something about how a job was really being done.  There were often “aha!” moments when I realized people were doing things in an unexpected way, coming up with a workaround to a common issue or filling in gaps in their training with their best guess.  Incident reports could either reassure me that things were happening as anticipated or open a Pandora’s box of issues to be resolved.  Either way, they taught me something.

They created opportunities to learn more

Incident reports always lead to questions.  There is never enough room on the form to capture everything, nor can you anticipate every question when creating the form.  So, once it is filled out, you always have more questions – why did you do it that way rather than this way? What was happening before you fell?  Where are those records normally kept?  Answering these questions involve talking to the people doing the work and learning more about their work.  This is never bad from a management perspective.  And then you have the opportunity to ask questions about prevention, process improvement, training enhancement, etc.  This all makes the incident report one of the best quality improvement tools in your toolbox.

They forced me to prioritize

Once I delved into the Pandora’s box of issues raised by an incident, I would be forced to prioritize the necessary follow-up actions.  This was always a good exercise and often involved putting issues into perspective.  It required the management team to look at the projects on our agenda and apply the lens of risk assessment.  This encouraged us to tackle first those issues that had the highest probability of recurring, with the most potential for harm, and the greatest likelihood of a negative outcome.  Tracking and trending your incident reports informs your risk assessment and provides a basis for your future actions.

To reap the benefits of incident reporting you need to:

  1. Have a procedure which outlines when incident reports are required;
  2. Have a form that captures all the details of the incident and the follow-up;
  3. Have a process for investigating and following up on incidents and;
  4. Create a workplace culture that values incident reporting.
  5. Contact me – I can help with all of these!

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