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Workplace Incidents: 5 Essential Next Steps

Workplace Incidents: 5 Essential Next Steps

Here’s what you need to know to address incidents, accidents and illnesses in the workplace.

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Many of us may find ourselves following a loosely defined routine in the workplace. This encompasses the planned aspects of our day: the hours we work, the time we eat lunch, or the meetings we have scheduled. But what happens when an unplanned incident occurs in the midst of our routine – an injury, an illness, a fatality? These incidents may occur in any workplace. So it's important to understand how to approach them.

We’ve identified five essential ‘next steps’ for approaching workplace incidents of any type, including property damage, theft, minor injuries, serious injuries, and fatalities. These steps should act only as a basic guide for dealing with incidents. To ensure that you are acting in accordance with the applicable policies, consult the workplace health and safety regulations for both your employer and your state/province.

Addressing Workplace Incidents

    1. Respond to Any Injuries/Illnesses
      Following an incident, verify that all employees are safe and healthy. Address any injuries or illnesses immediately. Minor injuries may be handled with basic first aid treatment, whereas a serious injury or illness may require the attention of medical professionals.
    2. Report to Authorities (If Needed)
      In cases of serious injury or fatality, report the incident to the appropriate government institution. In the United States, reporting requirements differ in each state. Similarly, reporting regulations in Canada are determined independently by each province. Be familiar with local government standards to ensure that all appropriate processes are followed in the event of a serious injury or fatality.
    3. Determine the Scope of the Incident
      Once immediate medical attention has been given to employees, assess the scope of the incident. Ask a series of questions: Who? What? and How Much/Many? These questions will reveal whether any employees were directly involved in or affected by the incident, what the damage or injuries sustained were, and how much damage or how many injuries occurred. Defining the scope of an incident will facilitate the investigation process once it begins.
    4. Identify Witnesses
      In situations where the incident was witnessed by one or more individuals, identify them as soon as possible. Though witnesses might not be interviewed until an investigation is launched, collecting their information earlier in the process will allow it to proceed smoothly.
    5. Complete an Incident Report
      Finally, complete a thorough incident report, regardless of the severity of the incident. The incident report itself will not determine the cause of the incident or recommend a solution, but it will initiate the investigation process if needed. This report should include all of the above information and may warrant additional information. For example, if an employee has been seriously injured, it may be useful to include medical information.

    Need help completing the incident report? Download the free Incident Report Template.

    Though every incident is unique, the steps outlined above can be adapted to a variety of situations. Embedding these steps into an existing incident reporting framework will allow your organization to improve its processes for handling workplace injuries, illnesses, and incidents.