What are key things to do once there has been a safety incident in the organization? How do you record and share information about the incident?
Nobody wants to have any safety incidents, but at the same time, we need to be ready. Every organisation needs to have a plan on how to react and communicate when a safety incident occurs. When was the last time you updated your incident management process?
Based on my experiences and discussions with industry professionals, I have gathered some tips on how to fine-tune your incident management process. This is not a definitive list for developing your own incident management system, it’s intended to help you improve your existing one and give you some ideas when you are fine-tuning it.
1. First thing - be prepared
Have an incident reporting process in place and define communication channels. Everyone in the organisation should know how and which channels to use to report a safety incident. Define and communicate the roles and tasks at different levels to ensure that your organisation isn’t paralysed when responding to an incident.
Encourage people to include photos of the incident if possible, this way you can make sure that a comprehensive approach to data gathering commences immediately. Information and photos are valuable when the incident is being investigated. The more data you capture, the better. When you are prepared, you ensure that you get as much information as possible and you capture it when it is still fresh.
2. Make sure the people responsible for HSEQ know what to do when an incident is reported
Great! Now we have received the incident report through our reporting channel, what’s next? What happens to the report? Will it be buried on someone’s desk?
Make sure that managers are aware of how to handle safety incidents and when they need to be escalated. In the case of a serious incident, you want to make sure your response team is involved as quickly as possible. Once received, there should be a clarity about how incident reporting moves forward.
3. Communicate, communicate, communicate!
When a safety incident report is received, there has to be effective communication between everyone affected as well as towards the HSEQ team and management.
Safety incidents should not be considered as confidential. Once you have a clear idea of what has happened, remember that incidents are rarely isolated situations; the same factors that led to one incident might also be present in other parts of the organisation. They could be related to training, safety culture, machinery or management processes. It is important to make the information available to anybody to whom it might concern.
How do you share incident information in your organization? Which channels do you use?
4. Take action
The safety incident report and any findings from the investigation have to be updated into your safety management system and to any other software management applications. Document all the information about the incident and any investigation you carry out to identify the root causes.
When you have found the root causes of the incident, take immediate action to mitigate it. Assign clear tasks to people and don’t forget to follow them up.
5. Share the learning points
Make your own organisation (as well as others in your industry or perhaps other sectors), aware of the conditions which led to the incident and how you are managing the risk. Sharing safety information may help someone else to avoid a serious incident. Does your organisation share information internally? What about partners, your industry and other sectors?
Even in organisations that have a well-functioning incident management process, one important step is sometimes forgotten. Quite often, the person who originally reported the incident never gets feedback. After an incident, you might take steps, such as refining best practice, revising training programmes and investing in equipment. However, the person that reported the incident, might not see them.
Think about it from their point of view… If you kept reporting incidents to which it seems no one actually responds, you might be less motivated to report other safety incidents in the future too, so why bother? Remember, at least thank the person who reported the incident, and where possible, communicate the actions you have taken - make sure they understand their contribution is valued and appreciated.
Here are my tips to improve your incident management processes. What are your tips? Don’t be shy, share your best practices!