Incident reports help find out why accidents happen, but also why they do not. Data and lessons are shared, feedback keeps staff in the loop, and, in fact, incident reporting schemes are cheaper than the cost of an accident.
Reports are a reminder of hazards and organizations can use information to change processes for the future. It’s really a no-brainer to have the systems in place.
But what good is having EHS processes if workers just don’t report incidents? Before any manager or director can analyze trends, there needs to be engagement of the workforce.
We've taken a look at common barriers to incident and near-miss reporting and picked 5 that EHS Managers and Directors have the power to tackle.
If reporting out an incident is going to take too much effort, chances are workers will avoid it. Their time is valuable and reporting an incident or near-miss may just equate ‘headache’.
By implementing mobile reporting this issue should no longer be a cause for concern. It’s possible for employees to access forms with their smartphones, by either having an app downloaded or scanning an on-site QR code. Mobile forms can even be pre-populated with GPRS location, and images can be attached for clearer explanations.
This is one way EHS Managers can neutralize the difficulty excuse.
The issue of classification of the type of incident that occurred is another common barrier to reporting. “What do I even report this as?”
Provide forms with a severity matrix, enable tooltips, and ensure all reports are reviewed after submission. This can be slightly tricky as classification is left up to interpretation, but if an explanation is not satisfactory e-forms can be easily sent back to the witness for clarification.
Additionally, you could make sure descriptions of each possible type of event are included within forms. Classification also varies per region, so make sure employees are equipped with the local knowledge of what certain incident types should be reported as.
There are two types of embarrassment here: being embarrassed about causing an incident or a near-miss, and being embarrassed to report one.
Workplace culture should accept that people make mistakes, and employees should be made aware of the consequences of not reporting an incident.
Although in some hard-hat industries having ‘battle scars’ merits respect, it's pretty safe to say that anything more serious would not be so admirable. Hold a monthly safety meeting to keep staff involved, to remove the embarrassment associated with safety incidents and to educate them on the consequences of complacency.
In many industries employees have a fear of retribution for reporting an incident. Unfortunately, a blame culture still exists in companies where workplace safety is seen as a burden or a drain on efficiency.
In fact, it’s proven that implementing an effective EHS system is closely tied to achieving operational excellence, so the stigma around safety should – in theory – be eradicated.
This one is down to management. Reporting both near-misses and incidents should always be encouraged in order to reduce accidents, and whistle-blowers should be met with praise rather than punishment. Not to mention RIDDOR in the UK, which requires all near-misses or close calls also be reported to the HSE.
If the fear of retribution still plagues your workforce, you might consider implementing an anonymous reporting model.
5. Lack of interest from organization
This is probably the biggest one, and could otherwise be known as an organization’s safety culture.
There are numerous ways management can prove to employees that their safety and reports are valued: share safety performances, encourage reporting, instigate a safety committee, invest in training for staff, take opinion surveys, or implement an easy to use EHS system.
In an article by Pro-Sapien Director Murray Ferguson, health and safety is compared to a black box – everything should be recorded, and then it should be learnt from.
EHS starts at the top: the board and management need to show their commitment before employees can be expected to follow suit.
What to do now?
Now we have identified the barriers to incident reporting, the next step is narrowing them down to the ones that affect your own workforce. Some ways in which this can be done is through surveys or focus groups that will involve your employees, as they will be in the best position to give you the right insight. Once this stage is completed, the next phase is to target and solve them.
EHS software can be a useful tool at this stage, especially for the Difficulty and Classification barriers. A user-friendly interface can be key in making reporting easy and efficient, and pre-established forms and incident types will simplify their categorisation.
Check out our Health and Safety Employee Engagement Cheat Sheet to find new ways to engage with your employees and encourage the right safety culture.