The 5 Stages of Safety Incident Management

Incident management is a broad term used by several practices with varying connotations. Here, we're focusing on safety incident management.

In Safety, most departments follow a similar process after an unsafe event occurs onsite.

For a successful risk remediation, there are typically five stages of safety incident management – are you following them all?

What is safety incident management?

Safety incident management provides insight into the cause of an issue, and helps avoid it recurring (we all know how much such events can cost a company).

It is defined by independent analyst firm Verdantix as:

“Activities undertaken by workers, managers and executives in EHS and other functions to track, report, investigate and analyze incidents which negatively impact or could have negatively impacted workers, business operations, and physical assets.”

Standardizing your safety incident management process undoubtedly improves the comparability of data and boosts efficiency. However, 60% of companies don’t utilize commercial software for the practice, leading to poor visibility and lost opportunities to enhance safety.

A template of incident management stages

Leading organizations typically deploy Safety Incident Management Software to manage the process with automation, standardization and transparency.

However, whether you’re using software or not, the incident management process will have several stages.

Not all incidents require the same due diligence, so we recommend the following stages as a general template:

  1. Notification/Report
  2. Initial Review
  3. Investigation
  4. Actions
  5. Final Review

Let's take a closer look at each stage.

Notification/Report

The Notification or Report stage is when preliminary information about an incident is submitted to management. This is usually done by a worker on the shop-floor, where most workplace incidents take place.

The Notification should include:

  • Location and sublocation
  • Date and time
  • Equipment involved
  • Incident type and subtype
  • Expected severity
  • Title
  • Brief explanation of what happened
  • Who the incident involved
  • Details of any immediate actions that were taken
  • Attached images

If you have software, Notification will be an electronic form for workers to fill in.

Crucially, this must be easy-to-use. Like all staff, shop-floor workers have time pressures and may avoid reporting an incident if it's a laborious process.

Furthermore, your safety incident notification form should be available on mobile devices, to facilitate timely reporting.

Once submitted, notifications are distributed to the appropriate Reviewers based on details such as location, type and severity.

Initial Review

The appropriate reviewer(s) should look through the Notification that was submitted.

Typically, safety incident management software uses rules to determine the correct reviewer. For example, taking Location, Type or Expected Severity into consideration.

The reviewer is educated in company policy and local health and safety legislation, and will confirm the:

  • Actual severity
  • Subtype
  • Immediate actions that were taken

They will then determine if an investigation is needed and, if so, who should lead it. Usually, an investigation is only required in medium to high severity incidents. (If an investigation is not required, the process should skip the next step.)

When Initial Review is complete, it's time to move to Investigation. At this point, the safety incident is routed to the lead investigator who the reviewer nominated.

Investigation

Investigation is probably the most time-consuming step of safety incident management. It mainly involves qualitative data, which takes time to collect.

It's so important because it answers the questions of what happened, how and why.

After the lead investigator organizes an investigation team, a safety incident investigation typically involves:

  • Reviewing the applicable policies and training
  • Determining a sequence of events
  • Documenting the personnel who were involved
  • Categorizing the injury or illness and tracking restricted work
  • Obtaining witness statements
  • Conducting Root Cause Analysis
  • Collating further supporting evidence
  • Setting out a Corrective and Preventative Action (CAPA) plan

The thoroughness, accuracy and timeliness of a safety incident investigation is hugely benefitted by software.

Furthermore, an investigation brings together a large volume of information, including personal and sensitive data, that should be carefully documented. For example, you must ensure stringent security is in place to protect witness statements and health records, a privacy legislation requirement in many jurisdictions.

Once the Investigation has been approved, it's time to correct and prevent based on the findings. Therefore, the next stage is Actions.

Actions

Corrective and preventative actions are important for almost every safety incident, especially following an investigation. These exist to reduce the risk of recurrence.

Therefore, every action should be timebound and trackable, to ensure it gets completed.

Typically, safety incident management software contains functionality for this, like the Action Manager from Pro-Sapien.

As well as a title and description of what's required, actions should include:

  • Priority
  • Owner
  • Category
  • Due date
  • Status (automated if using software)
  • Whether any evidence is required

Customarily, actions addressing immediate causes are carried out onsite, whereas those for latent failures are handled by management and take longer to complete.

All updates and evidence must be tracked in a central, visible location to keep the safety incident management team on the same page.

In addition, best practice is to put in place automated reminders and Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) for these CAPAs.

Automated reminders notify action owners when their action is approaching its due date. If it becomes overdue, there should be an escalation workflow to notify the chain of command, to ensure nothing slips through the cracks.

In terms of KPIs, Pro-Sapien clients make use of Red-Amber-Green status indicators for trackers like Overdue Actions. These visuals are displayed on Action Manager dashboards to help managers stay on top of the follow up process.

Final Review

The Final Review controls whether a safety incident can be closed.

Accordingly, final reviewers must look at every stage of the process and approve it as complete or request further information.

Only those with the appropriate clearance can approve or reject the process, and all comments from every approval or rejection should be recorded. A useful approach is to make comments mandatory when submitting an approval/rejection, to reduce lack of attention.

After Final Review is signed off, the incident is closed. But - this is not the end of the Safety Incident Management process.

Safety Incident Management evaluation with analytics

You’ve worked hard to complete the five stages of Safety Incident Management, so don’t let it get forgotten about.

It’s important to regularly look at the Safety performance of the business to manage risk and to understand the difference your CAPAs have made – and if any more are required.

You can do this efficiently with business intelligence dashboards and reports, a common feature of most safety management software platforms.

Indicators on dashboards can be either lagging or leading in nature, and should inform decision-making for safety risk management. Useful trackers - some mandated by local legislation - include:

  • Lost Time Injury Frequency Rate (LTIFR)
  • Total Recordable Incident Rate (TRIR)
  • Average incident response time
  • Top 5 causation factors
  • Comparisons to previous periods

For optimal metrics, we recommend ensuring dashboards are configured to your unique requirements.

Importantly, Safety Incident Management is a large part of the Safety operation. Although it is traditionally lagging in nature, the CAPAs produced by a productive process are essential in preventative risk management.

Ready to take it one step further? Consider also tracking and investigating safety near-misses.

Boost employee engagement for more effective safety incident management

Access this free PDF with helpful tips for safety professionals.

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