Incidents can occur in any workplace, whether it be an office, construction site, power plant, or oil platform. While some may seem minor, it is crucial to report all incidents, no matter how small they may seem. In this article, we will discuss the importance of reporting incidents and how they can benefit employees and employers.

What is an Incident Report?

An incident report is a documented record that captures a wide range of workplace events, including accidents, injuries, near misses, asset damage, and or safe/unsafe conditions. It is an essential tool for recording vital information about the event, including the circumstances leading up to it, the individuals involved, and any resulting injuries or damages.

Understanding Events

Let's use a workplace scenario to illustrate the differences between an observation, unsafe act, near miss, and incident.


An observation involves actively spotting safe and unsafe practices or conditions before they escalate. It's a proactive measure to prevent potential incidents or near-misses.

Example: During a routine inspection in a construction site, an employee notices that a fire extinguisher is blocked by boxes. This is an unsafe condition.

Unsafe Act: 

An unsafe act refers to any behaviour, action, or decision by individuals that deviates from accepted safety protocols. These acts increase the risk of accidents or harm.


• Not using Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) when required.

• Operating machinery without proper training.

• Bypassing safety protocols or devices.

• Using damaged tools or equipment.

• Ignoring warning labels or instructions

Near Miss: 

A near miss is an event that could have led to harm or loss but didn't—this time. It's a close call that highlights potential risks.

Example: As you walked through a construction site, you narrowly avoided being struck by a falling tool that slipped from a worker's hand. Although the tool missed hitting you, it was a close call that could have resulted in a serious injury if it had made contact.


An incident is an unexpected event or occurrence that disrupts normal operations, safety, or processes within an organisation. It can have various implications, including injuries, equipment failures, or system malfunctions.

Example: Later in the day, you receive a report that a worker fell from a ladder while trying to access a higher level of the construction site. The worker sustained injuries and required medical attention, so this event is classified as an incident because it harmed the worker.

The Importance of Reporting 

The benefits of incident reporting extend beyond controlling hazards and preventing accidents. Reporting incidents also plays a crucial role in fostering a safety culture within organisations and ensuring compliance with regulatory standards.

Preventing Future Incidents

Incident reports act as a roadmap for identifying recurring patterns and hazards within the workplace. By learning from past incidents, organisations can implement preventive measures to minimise the likelihood of similar incidents occurring in the future.

For example, if an employee slips and falls due to a wet floor, reporting the incident can lead to the implementation of better cleaning procedures or the installation of warning signs to prevent future slips and falls.

Improving Safety Culture

The purpose of incident reporting is not to place blame or punish employees but rather to improve safety measures and prevent similar incidents from happening in the future. It also allows for data collection to identify trends and patterns, which can help create a safer work environment.

Encouraging employees to report incidents fosters a culture of transparency and accountability. When employees feel comfortable speaking up about safety concerns, they create a positive environment where everyone is committed to maintaining a safe workplace.

Compliance with Regulations

Many industries are subject to regulatory requirements regarding incident reporting. By adhering to these regulations and promptly reporting incidents, organisations demonstrate their commitment to compliance and workplace safety.

How to Report Incidents 

While the incident reporting process may vary depending on the organisation and incident management system being used, some best practices apply universally. By following these guidelines, organisations can ensure that incident reporting is efficient, effective, and consistent:

Immediate Reporting: Report the incident as soon as possible to ensure timely investigation and response.

Detail Accuracy: Provide accurate and detailed information about what happened, including the date, time, location, evidence and any witnesses.

Severity: Use your organsation's Risk Assessment Matrix to determine how bad the incident could have been if it had reached full potential. This promotes a more mature approach to incident management and should dictate the level of investigation the investigation warrants.

Cause Identification: Identify and document the potential causes of the incident to help prevent future occurrences. Depending on the severity of the incident, you may need to launch an investigation and use root cause analysis tools. If you are a COMET user, this can be either a COMET Lite or a full COMET investigation.

Corrective Actions: Suggest any immediate corrective actions taken or that could be taken to address the hazard or unsafe condition. Your investigation should also reveal preventive actions, which contribute to incident prevention.

Follow-Up: Ensure a follow-up process for reviewing the incident report, implementing preventive measures, and communicating outcomes to relevant parties.

What Happens After an Incident is Reported?

Once an incident is reported, a detailed investigation may be initiated to uncover the root causes and compile evidence. Key stakeholders are notified, and support is extended to those affected.

The investigation's findings can have various implications for an organisation, including:

• Improved training for employees;

• Modifications to existing procedures;

• Enhancement of safety measures;

• Equipment redesign or upgrade

Having a reliable incident reporting system is critical for any organisation's success. It ensures regulatory compliance, fosters a safe workplace for staff, and helps reduce operational interruptions due to unexpected events. Learn about COMET for investigations.

Common Challenges

Despite the importance of incident reporting, organisations may face various challenges that hinder effective reporting. Addressing these challenges is essential for ensuring that incidents are reported and addressed in a timely manner.

Fear of Repercussions

Employees may hesitate to report incidents due to fear of reprisal or disciplinary action. Creating a culture of trust and transparency can help alleviate these concerns and encourage employees to report incidents without fear of repercussions. Learn about COMET Resilience, our Human & Organisational Performance Toolkit.

Lack of Understanding of Reporting Procedures

Some employees may be unfamiliar with the incident reporting process or unsure of when and how to report incidents. Providing clear guidelines and training on reporting procedures helps employees understand their responsibilities and how to report incidents effectively.

Inadequate Reporting Systems

Outdated processes like paper-based systems, spreadsheets, or complex reporting systems can discourage employees from reporting incidents. Investing in user-friendly reporting tools and technology can streamline the process and make it easier for employees to report incidents quickly and accurately.

Role of Employees

While incident reporting is primarily the responsibility of management, employees also play a crucial role in maintaining a safe workplace. By being proactive in reporting incidents and providing accurate information, employees can help prevent accidents and ensure the safety of their colleagues.

Choosing an Incident Management Software

When it comes to choosing an Incident Management System, it's essential to select a solution that meets your organisation's unique requirements. Here are some valuable tips to consider:

• Prioritise configuration over customisation. The latter can become expensive.

• Look for streamlined workflows for efficient incident handling.

• Ensure consistency through configurable risk assessment matrix capability.

• Consider a solution that offers offline capabilities.

• Ensure the system provides a complete overview of incidents across the organisation.

• Opt for a solution with configurable workflows to align with your processes.

• Select a user-friendly platform that includes all maintenance and updates in the license cost

• Choose a system that allows for ongoing configurations as needs evolve.

• Ensure seamless integration with existing investigation and assurance environments.

• Seek platforms that offer comprehensive data analysis tools.

The Role of Data Analytics in Incident Reporting 

The role of data analytics in incident management reporting is becoming more and more of a priority for organisations because it enhances decision-making processes and improves overall safety performance. By leveraging advanced data analytics using data visualisation platforms such as Tableu, Spotfire, Power BI among others, organisations can:

Visualise Data: Data visualisation platforms enable the creation of interactive and visually appealing dashboards and reports, allowing stakeholders to quickly and effectively gain insights.

Identify Trends and Patterns: Through advanced data analytics, data visualisation platforms help organisations identify trends and patterns within incident data. This enables proactive risk management by identifying recurring issues and addressing root causes before they escalate.

Data-Driven Decision Making: Organisations can make data-driven decisions by identifying actionable insights derived from incident data. This ensures that decisions regarding safety initiatives and resource allocation are based on empirical evidence rather than intuition.

Monitor Key Performance Indicators (KPIs): Organisations can track key performance indicators related to incident management, such as frequency rates, severity, hazard types, and underlying causes. This helps monitor safety performance and identify areas for improvement.

Overall, data visualisation platforms provide insights that enable organisations to effectively analyse, visualise, and act upon incident data to enhance safety performance and mitigate risks.

Incident Management with COMET

The latest version of COMET's Incident Management Module will embed Power BI directly within the application. Users will be able to seamlessly access Power BI dashboards, allowing them to explore insights and visualisations. Additionally, we'll provide an API for those who want to ingest data into their own Power BI environments.

Stay tuned for the upcoming release of the latest version of COMET's Incident Management Software Module, designed to address these key needs and more. Sign up now for early and exclusive access to experience the enhanced features and benefits firsthand.


Reporting incidents is crucial for maintaining a safe and healthy work environment. It allows for identifying hazards and implementing preventative measures, ensures compliance with regulations and laws, and improves workplace safety culture. By following proper reporting procedures and providing detailed information, employees and employers can work together to create a safer workplace for all. Remember, no incident is too small to report.

Written by Steve Holmes - Chief Operating Officer at COMET.