Environment, health and safety (EHS) incident management is the process by which companies identify, prevent, respond to, record and analyze their exposure to environmental and health and safety risks in the workplace.
Workplace accidents are all too common. In the U.S., employers spend roughly $171 billion a year in costs associated with disabling or non-fatal workplace injuries. A single fatal injury is reported to cost a company $1,150,000, and despite the enormous costs associated with workplace fatalities, they still occur. In 2021 alone, the U.S. recorded 5,190 fatal work injuries, an increase of 9% over 2020. This equals one worker fatality every 101 minutes.
Many of the workplace incidents that lead to injuries, disabilities and fatalities are preventable. For example, organizations can prevent falls with proper cleaning of factory floors or avoid toxic chemical exposures with appropriate training and the right personal protective equipment (PPE). Other types of incidents may be related to circumstances beyond an organization’s control, like a hurricane or the COVID-19 pandemic. Nevertheless, every organization is responsible for knowing its risks, preparing for potential health and safety incidents and continuously improving workplace safety.
Why Effective Incident Management Is Vital
In addition to making workplaces safe for employees and reducing a company’s impact on the environment, incident management ensures that organizations stay productive by preventing the disruption of business operations. It limits unnecessary costs by avoiding worker’s compensation and property damage claims, environmental clean-up costs and insurance premium hikes. It also helps companies meet regulatory compliance requirements. Importantly, effective incident management enables businesses to steer clear of events and incidents that can cause immeasurable damage to its reputation.
Types of Incidents
There are many different types of events associated with EHS incident management. Organizations need to follow the rules of their local jurisdiction and report major incidents involving injuries, in-patient hospitalizations and fatalities to regulatory bodies such as the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), EU-OSHA and Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurences Regulations (RIDDOR). And to establish a forward-looking perspective and improve its safety performance, an organization should also add near-misses and observations to its incident reporting system.
The EHS Incident Management Process
The EHS incident management process can vary across industries and types of operations. However, there are essential steps to take, and we recommend these four:
- Prepare.The core goal of incident management is to prevent accidents from happening. Businesses can do this by assessing their risk, identifying likely events and creating prevention and response plans based on industry best practices and historical incident data. Additionally, regular quality audits can identify safety gaps, improve training and drive safety performance.
- Respond. Unfortunately, accidents can still happen. When an incident does occur, organizations must be ready to rapidly respond and minimize harm. Incident response plans should include documented procedures for treating worker injuries and addressing immediate issues and damage, as well as plans for how to resume operations safely.
- Report. Recording what happened is essential to preventing future events. Organizations should record incidents and investigate them within 48 hours. The investigation should produce a report that includes details on what happened, a root cause analysis and recommendations for prevention.
- Analyze & Revise. The last step in the process is the systematic review of incident investigation data. Businesses must have a system in place to review findings, take corrective actions and document resolutions. Businesses are often required to store this information and make it accessible to employees.
Incident Management Systems Need Digitalization
Responding quickly to incidents is key. A resilient incident management system backed up by modern incident management software helps eliminate manual tasks, automate processes and prioritize incidents to expedite incident reporting. This will free up capacity for health and safety teams that face increasing complexity within their daily work. Digital tools enhance workplace safety and improve employee communication and engagement, which in turn results in more, and better, incident reporting and more effective incident management.
Incident Management Is a Cycle
Continuous incident management provides the foundation for an effective safety culture. Safety is a team effort, and it depends heavily on all team members. Every employee’s actions matter, and every incident and near miss supplies vital information to prevent and mitigate future risk.
Further Resources on Incident Management
Measures of Success: How Co-op Used Historical Data to Proactively Improve Workplace Safety
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