Ways to improve your incident management process

In this post, I’ll share four ways to improve your incident management process without completely overhauling it. Having a process that works for your operation will make it easy to comply with OSHA’s incident recordkeeping requirements.

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Stay proactive when handling incidents

Let’s start by discussing what you need to know. Make sure you have the OSHA forms (300, 300A, and 301) readily available to record any work-related recordable injury or illness. And make sure those responsible for health and safety know what to do.

OSHA requires many employers with more than 10 employees to keep a record of certain work-related injuries and illnesses. Employers are not required to keep injury and illness records if they are listed in appendix A of the rules as an establishment classified as partially exempt—or establishments OSHA deems low-risk.

There are four specific instances require any employer, including those partially exempt, to make a prompt report to OSHA:

  • An employee killed on the job;
  • A work-related in-patient hospitalization;
  • The loss of an eye; or
  • An amputation.

OSHA’s definition of “hospitalization” can be tricky. It is defined “as a formal admission to the in-patient services of a hospital or clinic.” So if your employee goes to the emergency room after falling and hitting his head and then has an MRI, but there’s no formal admission and no medical treatment provided, you do not need to report that hospitalization to the Agency. Of course, it would be a recordable injury.

Communicate procedures with employees

Under OSHA’s recordkeeping rules, you are also required to let your workers know how and when to report a work-related injury or illness. This means you have to establish procedures for workers to follow when reporting these incidents to you or another authorized worker, safety manager, or supervisor.

Create reporting procedures that are easy for your employees to follow.  That means they have to understand them. If you have workers that speak other languages, then you have to ensure that the procedures are provided in a manner that they will understand.

The procedures should outline what types of incidents are reportable and to whom within the company (including different shifts) the report should be sent. Create a general incident reporting form that workers can use immediately to fill out the information about the injury or illness and what happened that led to the incident. It’s critical to write down details of the incident while they are fresh.

Your incident reporting procedures should include reporting any safety hazards and near-misses. The best way to control safety hazards is to be aware of them. Maintaining records of procedures, reports, and inspections can become cumbersome, that’s where software solutions can be extremely helpful.

Don’t delay medical attention

Unfortunately, there may be an incident that could require medical attention. Make sure you are prepared to send an injured worker to a medical provider. You should develop a relationship with the medical provider to facilitate prompt and appropriate treatment for you injured employees. The provider you use should be well-versed in occupational health care.

Investigate incidents immediately

One of the most important things you can do to improve your incident management process and be in compliance with OSHA is that you uncover the root cause of any incident or even a near-miss, that occurs.

How do you find the root cause of an accident? It’s as simple as asking the question “why” several times until you identify the underlying cause—this is called a root cause analysis.

Consider the following OSHA example: A worker slips on a puddle of oil on the plant floor and falls and suffers an injury. A root cause analysis would reveal that the oil on the plant floor was merely a symptom of a more fundamental problem in the workplace.

In conducting the analysis, you should ask:

  • Why the fall: There was oil on the plant floor.
  • Why: Oil spilled from compressor.
  • Why: No one detected an oil leak from the compressor.
  • Why: The compressor did not receive a routine inspection.
  • Why and the root cause: The compressor was not in the maintenance system schedule.

A root cause analysis that simply focused on the immediate cause—failure to clean up the spill—would not have prevented future incidents because there was no system in place to prevent, identify, and correct leaks.

Your root cause analysis provides a clear picture of what you need to focus on. It could mean providing employees with additional skills training, implementing new policies and procedures, or upgrading equipment. But it is not a one-time process.

A long-lasting approach

An effective incident management process will result in continuous improvement for your organization. This includes:

  1. Involving employees in the process—they are on the frontlines.
  2. A commitment from management that shows they care for the safety of the workers.
  3. Investigating all incidents, including near-misses.
  4. Reviewing and monitoring the effectiveness of your incident management process.

If you can improve your incident management process by even 10%, you’ll be surprised at the impact it has on overall EHS performance.