Large organizations require Incident Management Software, but having a stellar process for investigation, CAPAs, and lessons learned is no good without the incident report in the first place. If you’re looking to increase incident reporting at your enterprise, you’re likely asking: what gets in the way?

Before any EHS leader can meaningfully analyze trends, frontline workers need to participate.

Thus, we must diagnose incident reporting barriers to implement targeted, effective treatment. Like an incident investigation, businesses should consider contributing factors and root causes to understand why workers don’t report incidents.

In this article, we’re discussing five common barriers we believe EHS leaders have the power to tackle.

1. Difficulty

One of the biggest barriers to incident reporting is difficulty. If it takes too much effort, chances are, workers will avoid it.

For example, at logistics firm LBC Tank Terminals, only 10% of incident reports were coming from non-HSEQ staff. The legacy, Oracle-based platform was complex and inaccessible by most employees. By replacing it with modern safety software on Microsoft 365, non-HSEQ staff participation jumped to 93% in the first year.

Interestingly, how much incident information to ask for upfront varies among our clients. Some organizations require more, keen to capture detail when it’s fresh in minds; others need less and are more focused on getting the notification as soon as possible.

You may also consider requiring less information when capturing a near miss versus an injury.

Furthermore, mobile forms help remedy the difficulty barrier. However, this can also introduce a subset of problems if the form isn’t responsive, lightweight, or requires an external app to be downloaded.

Instead, putting your incident report form in the likes of MS Teams (including mobile) can help boost engagement, using a platform most staff are already familiar with.

2. Categorization

The issue of classification or categorization can get in the way of workers submitting incidents. “What do I even report this as?”

To quash this, there are a number of steps you can take:

  • Provide tooltips on forms
  • Provide a visual severity matrix
  • Implement a Review process

Tooltips provide guidance to users through pop-up advice against each field.

A visual severity matrix helps the reporter consider range of impact more quickly.

Additionally, an automated workflow with a Review stage helps uphold data quality. Reviewers can easily re-categorize or request more information from the reporter if something doesn’t look quite right.

In global enterprises, categorization may be different per region – a design consideration that should be possible to implement in comprehensive EHS software.

3. Embarrassment

There are two types of embarrassment that may stop someone reporting an incident:

  1. Being embarrassed about an incident happening
  2. Being embarrassed to report one

Both can be helped by management.

Embarrassment is a complex, self-conscious emotion strongly tied to social hierarchy. This means workplace culture plays a huge role in determining what is, and is not, perceived as embarrassing.

Therefore, if safety is not an everyday attitude, value, and norm—first exuded by management—it will be harder for workers to report when something goes wrong.

Although in some hard-hat industries having ‘battle scars’ merits respect, it’s safe to say anything more serious would not be so admirable. Hold a monthly safety meeting to keep staff involved, to remove embarrassment, and to communicate the danger of complacency.

4. Fear

In some industries, employees have a fear of retribution for reporting an incident.

Fortunately, this is a lot less common than it used to be; however, a blame culture can still exist where workplace safety is seen as a burden on efficiency, or where too much focus is put on “X days incident-free”.

In fact, it’s proven that implementing an effective EHS system is tied to achieving operational excellence, so any stigma around “health and safety gone mad” should—in theory—be eradicated.

Reporting observations and near-misses should always be encouraged to reduce accidents, and whistle-blowers should be met with praise rather than punishment.

If the fear of retribution still plagues your workforce, you might consider implementing an anonymous reporting option.

5. Lack of follow through

Perceived lack of interest from the organization is perhaps the biggest barrier to incident reporting. If workers believe nothing will get done, why would they bother reporting? (Especially if it’s difficult!)

Clearly, management needs to respond appropriately to all incident reports, and even near misses. This includes investigation and corrective actions where merited.

On top of this, organizations can make safety information more accessible.

One way to raise awareness is by embedding safety Power BI reports throughout Microsoft 365. For example, in SharePoint, Teams, or wherever employees spend their time on the company intranet. This shows staff what their forms feed into and supports your safety communication strategy.

Sharing safety information on corporate dashboards has been beneficial for utilities company SJI, who found “having safety top of mind and the entire organization aware of our performance leads to greater involvement in the safety program by all employees.”

Focus on engagement to increase incident reporting

We’ve identified several common barriers to incident reporting, from difficulty to lack of follow through. The next step is to narrow down which ones affect your own workforce.

For example, you may consider employee surveys or focus groups to gain insight into what stops incident reporting, before coming up with a strategy to target each pain point.

Safety management software is an incredibly useful solution, especially for barriers like difficulty, categorization, and perceived lack of follow through.

Importantly, easy access and a friendly user interface are key. We believe through combining powerful EHS software with the accessibility Microsoft 365, enterprises can maximize engagement and increase incident reporting far and wide.

For learn more, check out Why Pro-Sapien: Boosting EHS Engagement in Enterprises 🡢

Why Pro-Sapien? Learn about the benefits for your organization →

2 Comments

  • An inescapable fact is that what is optional to report is optional to leave unreported. Any reporting scheme that authorizes reporting something harmful without mandating the reporting, also authorizes not reporting it .

    Observation: When a pre-existing pre-known harmful condition is revealed, it is proof positive that all measures that could/should have resulted in reporting the condition between its creation and its revelation failed.

    Observation: Most workers in the high hazard industries have no spare time. Optional reporting can be deferred until spare time is available for it.

    Quotation: “When you see something, say something.”-A law enforcement/ security maxim

    Quotation: “Tell me if you see something dumb, dangerous, or different.”-Part of the implied Fire Boss Briefing

    Quotation: “A word to the wise is deficient.”-Bill Corcoran

    Quotation: “Am I my brother’s keeper?” Genesis 4:8-10

    Observation: Optional reporting is not a measure “to assure that conditions adverse to quality are promptly identified and corrected .” Optional reporting assures nothing. Optional reporting supports plausible deniability.

    Observation: The Honor Code at the U. S. Military Academy (West Point) comes close to creating an affirmative duty to report lying, cheating, and stealing. It is unusual in the more usual culture of Omertà .

    Observation: Any punishment of a person who reports creates a chilling effect on others who may have something to report. This applies as well to informal cultural punishments such as ostracism, kidding, and the like.

    Observation: Even the publication of the punishment of retaliators such as the United States Steel Corporation Case sends a chilling effect message to others who might have something to report.

    Observation: Often when impairment is part of the causation, the causation also includes chilling effects that impede victims and others from speaking out about the impairment. The 2016 Navy Blue Angels Crash appears to be such a case.

    Observation: Mandatory reporting is becoming more widespread, mainly with respect to harmed children .

    Observation: The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission has imposed mandatory reporting involving fitness for duty and trustworthiness for security, but not for safety.

    Observation: The requirements for mandatory reporting on co-workers aberrant behavior often loses out to chilling effect stronger influences, which could include workers’ group loyalties and their distrust of management .

    Observation: Those who have knowledge of the complexities of an area of endeavor are often those who view the area through lenses tainted by years of benefiting from the uncritical participation in it. This is an inherent chilling effect.

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