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How To Write An Employee Incident Report [Templates & Tips]

So you want to create an effective employee incident report form? We’ve got you covered with two nifty templates (PDF & Google Docs.)

Creating your form is easy. Getting employees to fill out these forms is the tricky part (especially in a bustling workplace!) This article details everything you need to know to create, handle & enforce effective incident reporting. 

Pro tip: Go digital to double your incident report rates! Try our custom form builder to digitize all your forms today (for free!)

Grab Our Employee Incident Report Templates

Before we dive in, why not grab your printable templates below (click the images to download a PDF)?

Employee Incident Report Form Example
Employee Minor Incident Report Example

Want to tailor these forms to your specific needs?  Simply save copies of the following to your Google Drive:

Voilà! You’re all set – let’s continue.  

What Is An Incident Report?

An employee incident report? It’s basically your go-to form when things go sideways at work. You jot down what went wrong, hand it over to your supervisor or safety person, and they take it from there to prevent a minor hiccup from turning into a risk-ridden nightmare.

What qualifies as an incident? It could be anything from a minor slip to something really serious.

And hey, what we used to call ‘accidents’ are now ‘incidents’ – thanks to OSHA shaking up the terminology.

Difference Between An Accident And Incident

A few years ago, we called it an ‘incident’ if something report-worthy happened but no one got hurt. If it led to time off work – that was an ‘accident.’

Fast forward to now – we group everything under ‘incidents’. Don’t be fooled, however: it’s still crucial to note if an incident caused an injury or not.

So, why the terminology switch? Well, ‘accident’ suggests it was all down to chance – like nobody’s fault, nothing to be done about it. But the truth is that most incidents can be prevented. That’s the key takeaway.

The Effects Of Incident Reporting On The Workplace

“The value in increasing incident reporting is to gain valuable data and insights into where work might be causing damage and how to learn and improve on the way we work to reduce harm. Incident data should be used to challenge our risk assumptions.”

Ksenia Wagensveld, Principal Consultant, Actum Solutions – Brisbane, Australia.

Ramping up incident reporting definitely makes for a safer workplace – any safety pro will tell you that. Let’s break it down with a couple of examples.

Scenario 1

Imagine Mr Allan tripping over a cable and breaking his arm because he was too busy avoiding a forklift. Sounds like a freak accident, right? But here’s the twist: two days earlier, an apprentice tripped over that same cable and shrugged it off. Had he reported it, Mr. Allan might not be in a cast today.

Sure, this story is made up, but it’s not far from reality.

Scenario 2

Now, here’s a real story from a safety training I attended.

Two workers were up high, about 20 meters, with tools scattered everywhere. One accidentally knocked a hammer off the edge. Think about it: a falling hammer is no joke for anyone below.

This incident might have gone unnoticed if a visiting executive hadn’t almost been hit by that hammer. He reported it, leading to a new rule: safety netting on high scaffolding. We can’t say for sure how many injuries, or even lives, this change has saved, but even if it’s just one, it’s worth it.

Three Ways To Increase Incident Reporting Rates

A hard hat lies on the ground with the quote "Higher incident reporting rates are critical to workplace safety"

Boosting safety at work and getting those incident reports in can be a real challenge.

We all want even the small stuff reported, but how do we make it happen?

Let’s dive into some tactics.

1. Educate Your Employees On Incident Reporting

Safety training is a staple in workplaces, but how it’s delivered can make a world of difference. Often, instructors stick to dry, forgettable facts.

The most effective ones use storytelling to bring those stats to life. 

They create relatable, humanized scenarios that resonate, especially with younger workers who might feel invincible. It’s not just about shock value; it’s the key to telling memorable and impactful stories. 

By transforming abstract dangers into concrete narratives, employees can better understand and appreciate the significance of safety protocols.

2. Leadership Should Set The Example – Equip The Right Incident Reporting Protocols

Leadership in safety isn’t just about setting rules; it’s about fostering a culture of proactive care.

A good practice is embodied by supervisors who actively engage with their teams about safety daily. 

For instance, my previous supervisor would bookend each day with quick ‘toolbox talks’, inviting discussions on any safety concerns encountered. This approach not only made reporting more accessible but also ingrained it as a daily habit. 

The downside? Reporting was deferred until the end of the shift – a more immediate reporting mechanism would have been even more effective.

3. Build Your Own Employee Incident Report Template

Following up on the previous point, our supervisor was smart. He pre-printed incident report forms, so he always had more on hand than would be necessary. Not environmentally friendly, and we’d still have to wait until the end of the day to complete the report. 

Days can be busy, and small but necessary details can become hazy. 

Plus, by the time a safety representative was able to investigate the site of the incident, conditions might already have changed. 

What if you could pull out your phone at the moment of the incident, snap a photo, enter details and send it straight to your safety team? It would save so much time – and it would, indeed, raise incident reporting rates. One of our consulting partners has already tested this and found favourable results. 

Read more about this story here

Incident Reporting – When To Submit

 An incident commander attends to a fire with a sign board that reads "the time is now"

In short, ASAP. 

By OSHA standards, you have 24 hours to report an incident.

I double-checked this with a practising safety officer, who advised that incidents should be before the end of a shift, if not immediately.

Which events qualify as incidents?

Pretty much anything. A good rule of thumb is to ask your safety officer or representative whenever you’re in doubt. 

I’ll draw from the previous incident regarding the dropped hammer again. If no one stood below, the hammer thudding into the ground would’ve seemed insignificant. No one would have reported it, and someone might have lost their life due to a future (preventable) recurrence. 

I mean, sometimes these scenarios can seem like a stretch, but anything can happen when it comes to safety. 

Be sure to report: 

  • Trips, slips, or falls.
  • Cuts or abrasions (yes, even a paper cut. It seems silly, but anytime the skin is broken, you’re at risk of infection. Get your wound treated and reported, no matter how small).
  • Near misses.
  • Unsafe practices.
  • Even report missing personal protective equipment (PPE) signage or ineffective PPE measures.
  • Also, report your defective PPE immediately.
  • Chemical smells – depending on the nature of your worksite, there could be an active gas leak that protocols failed to pick up. 

This list is by no stretch an exhaustive one. There are so many scenarios that most wouldn’t consider an incident but that you should report. Engage your safety team and make sure employees are aware of all the specifics you care to mention. 

Be sure to brush up on the record-keeping requirements relevant to your operations too.

For our US readers – here’s OSHA’s official page. 

What Should You Include In An Employee Incident Report?

Our employee incident report templates are thorough and perfect for the average business.

That said, you might want to create your own – as a rule, no employee incident report form should be without a few core fields

  • Time, date and precise location of the incident.
  • A complete and detailed description of events leading up to and including the incident. 
  • Injuries or damages occurred, if applicable. 
  • Photos and/or video when available (photos should always be included – most employees can take pictures with their smartphones). 
  • Names and contact information of all available witnesses. 
  • Risk mitigation going forward – how do we prevent future occurrences? 

Having all of these fields present will ensure your incident report form is actionable. Action is the core reason incident reports exist – we must be able to remedy the problem and make sure a near miss doesn’t become an injury – or even a fatality. 

This is why a digital tool comes in handy. Paperwork gets lost, and people forget. If there’s a clear and actionable digital record, the chance of remedial tasks going unattended is far less. 

Ensure Fast Turn Around Times

Whatever system you put in place needs to ensure the resulting tasks from your incident reports are taken care of quickly. The information needs to be transferred rapidly and get into the right hands ASAP – whether by app, spreadsheet or paper document.

So if you’re running a traditional paper-based system, having a team that is skilled at following up is critical. While we’re on the topic, let’s look at conventional ways vs. something like Appenate.  

Employee Incident Reports: Traditional Methods Vs. Appenate

Employee Incident Report - An injured man is attended to, along with a snapshot of an incident log on a tablet

Let’s break down a real-life example to show how important quick reporting can be.

Picture a team working on a rig, hoisting an electrical motor. Suddenly, someone walks by, almost getting hit by the motor. There’s a bit of a fuss, but then everyone just carries on. The supervisor notes it in his mind but doesn’t report it right away.

Why? Because reporting means a trip to the office, filling out forms, and it’s a whole thing that slows down work.

Fast forward to the end of the day: the supervisor finally reports it, but now it’s too late for the night shift to know about the hazard, like the need for better barriers or signs around the work area.

Now, imagine if the supervisor had a better way.

He whips out his phone, uses an app to quickly report the near-miss, complete with a photo and details, right there and then. The safety team gets the alert immediately, checks out the site, and fixes the problem on the spot.

Sure, this might hold up the work a bit, but when it comes to keeping people safe, that’s a delay worth having.

Encourage A Culture Of Safety

As we near the end of this article, we must mention how important it is to encourage a culture of safety. 

It all starts at the top. Leaders set the tone.

According to the Institute for Healthcare Improvement, employees often won’t report small matters for fear of reprisal.  We’ve all seen those bosses who get upset over ‘time-wasting’ reports or not meeting deadlines.

Sure, efficiency matters, but safety? That’s non-negotiable. Leaders need to show they take safety seriously. They should be patient and understanding about safety concerns. When they prioritize safety positively, this attitude trickles down through the ranks.

But it’s not all about being positive. 

When it comes to safety breaches, there’s no room for leniency. Tough decisions might have to be made. Sometimes, it means letting go of an otherwise good worker to maintain strict safety standards. It’s a tough call, but when it comes to preventing serious accidents, it’s the only call.

Specialized Software Or A Multi-Leveled Approach? 

Let’s wrap this up with a key takeaway: Need a top-notch safety management system? Your choice boils down to specialized vs. generalized

Specialized tools excel in safety tasks but often fall short in cross-department integration. 

Enter flexible solutions like Appenate – a game changer. Why? They’re user-defined, meaning you tailor apps or forms exactly to your needs, from incident reports to stock-take apps. No more scouring the web for free incident report templates (or whatever other forms you need!)

It’s not just about boosting safety; it’s about empowering every department. And the cherry on top? You’re stepping into the future of total digitalization – or in simpler terms, ditching paper for a smarter, seamless worksite.

A Reliable Incident Reporting Ally – Try Appenate For Free

Ready to ditch the grunt work? Create mobile-friendly forms with Appenate!

Opt for our guided trial for the full experience – it’s not just the standard freebie. You’ll get to snag multiple custom proof-of-concept apps and enjoy unlimited training and support as long as you’re with us. 

Our ultimate goal? To help you forge a rock-solid safety culture, saving lives in the most efficient way possible. Whether you’re with us or not, we’re rooting for your success. 

Happy incident reporting! 🙂