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Essential Steps in Managing Workplace Incidents

Incident management is a broad concept used in several disciplines but for environmental, health, and safety (EHS) related incidents, most organizations follow the same process when there is an unsafe incident or event. Incident management provides information about the cause of a problem and helps prevent incidents or events to occur in the workplace.

The incident management process is activated right after the incident by the people directly involved including an EHS representative. An investigating team is assigned to track, report, investigate, and analyze the incidents which negatively impact or could have negatively impacted the business operation, its workers, and physical assets.

Incident management involves a few processes that can help prevent and minimize incidents from recurring. Whether it is a fatality, injury, illness, or a near miss, effective incident management can help employers understand what happened and why it happened. Management of these incidents is essential to facilitate the implementation of preventive measures. And whether you are using incident management software or not, organizations must have full visibility and enhance safety.

What are the essential steps in managing workplace incidents?

1. Initial Notification

The first step is to submit preliminary information about the incident to the management. This is usually performed by workers on-site where the incident occurs. The preliminary information includes:

  • Location and site of the incident

  • Date and time

  • Equipment involved if any

  • Person(s) involved with the incident and witness if any (employee, visitor, contractor)

  • Incident type

  • Description of the incident

  • Consequences and outcomes of the incident (i.e. causes & impacts)

  • Initial severity of the incident

  • Immediate Corrective Actions if any

  • who are the people to be notified (employee, visitor, contractor)

  • pieces of evidence (i.e. photos or documents)

If you are using an incident management system, notifications are triggered on a real-time basis. Once the incident report form is submitted, the information is immediately escalated to the concerned parties who then acknowledge the report and take necessary action.

2. Evaluation

Upon receipt of the notification alert, the appropriate team or EHS executive or manager will then evaluate and review the facts and confirm:

  • the actual severity of the incident

  • classification of the incident

  • immediate actions to be taken

After evaluation, it is then determined if an investigation is necessary. Usually, an investigation is carried out for medium or high severity incidents. If an investigation is not required, the team can proceed to the root cause analysis.

Using an incident management system, the evaluator can manage the incident reports from a dashboard view. The evaluator can assign the investigation to an Investigating team. Both parties can then collaborate on the shared documents and ensure that records and evidence are complete.

3. Investigation

The investigation process involves collecting qualitative data and setting up an investigating team or investigator to:

  • Gather information on applicable policies and training

  • Identify the sequence of events

  • Gather the documentation of the staff involved

  • Interview with the witness and the injured party

  • Collect more supporting evidence

All information gathered before the investigation should be provided to the investigators. For serious incidents, measures are taken to prevent the disturbance of evidence so that the scene can be properly assessed.

One of the benefits of having an incident management system is it greatly reduces the paperwork and enhances the information flow between the investigating team and the management. The incident management system can process large amounts of information and has a layer of security to protect sensitive information and personal records.

4. Root Cause Analysis

In root cause analysis, it is necessary to examine the underlying factors in a chain of events that results in an incident. Organizations can use different methods such as Fishbone Diagram, 5-Whys, Bowtie Analysis, and Fault-tree analysis. The factors for root-cause analysis include:

  • Unsafe or unstable conditions such as environment, equipment, and maintenance

  • Human factors such as unsafe acts, understanding the task being performed, and training

After identifying the root cause, the outcome of the analysis will then reveal several faults contributing to the incident and potential latent failures. This step will then lead to the development of Corrective and Preventive Action Plans (CAPA).

5. Action Plan

The main objective of the Action Plan is to perform corrective actions that correct the problem that caused the incident and do a preventive action plan to ensure that similar types of incidents do not happen again. Follow-up actions for the incident investigation report include:

  • Response to the recommendations in the investigation report

  • Develop corrective action plans that include lessons learned, training, disciplinary actions, and compliance with regulatory requirements

  • Monitor implementation of the Action Plans until completion

To keep the incident management team on track, every Action should have a timeline and be traceable with complete updates and evidence.

An incident management system has an Action Plan that enables users to trigger an Action for specific work activity, set starting and end dates, assign Actions to responsible parties, and set automatic escalation alerts to notify Action owners when the due date is approaching. The users leverage the Action Plan monitoring dashboard to have a full overview of the Action progress. The management then uses the status indicators to help them review, escalate, follow up, and close the Actions when completed.

6. Final Review of Corrective Actions Effectiveness

Before closing the incident report, organizations must perform additional checks to confirm the success and effectiveness of their corrective actions.

Organizations can streamline the factors in each corrective action and calculate the new associated risk. They can also determine the exact cause of the incident and make changes that prevent them from happening. These steps will identify if further action is needed. Once the incident report is signed and approved by top management, the incident is officially closed.

One of the benefits of using incident management software is the ability to escalate important events and distribute the information to different stakeholders in the company. With an automated system, it is easy to make a follow-up and be able to monitor the completion of each task. It is then easy for the top level to review the summarized reports, view the indicators, and can easily understand the series of events before they sign for approval.

Lessons learned beyond incidents

The incident management process does not stop after the incident report is closed. Organizations must have full visibility of their EHS performance and be able to manage risk.

Organizations can use the collected incident data to disseminate information across the organization for better decision making and enhanced EHS procedures.

Incident Management Software Solution

ESC's incident management software is a reliable system that collects consistent incident reporting data. It uses a defined workflow that ensures correct information is captured for each process, including the attachment of pieces of evidence (photographs and relevant documents), creating an Action Plan, and monitoring the progress in a dashboard view. The system is also designed to create real-time push notification alerts to remind recipients of their assigned tasks, review escalation reports, manage records, and approve requests.

If you need more information about how ESC has helped other leading companies develop best practice incidents and integrated EHS programs, please contact us.


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