Incident management is the process by which companies identify, prevent, respond to, record, and analyze exposure to health and safety risks in the workplace.
Workplace accidents are all too common. In the U.S. alone, an average of more than 14 people died on the job every day in 2018, according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. Another 2.8 million nonfatal workplace illnesses and injuries were recorded in 2018 by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Many of these workplace incidents are preventable. Organizations can avoid falls with proper cleaning of factory floors, or prevent toxic chemical exposures with proper training and the right personal protective equipment, for example. Other incidents may be related to circumstances beyond an organization’s control, like a hurricane or the COVID-19 pandemic. However, every organization is responsible for knowing its risks and preparing for potential health and safety incidents. That’s where incident management comes into play.
Why Businesses Need Effective Incident Management
Incident management — the process of identifying, preventing, responding to, recording, and analyzing workplace health and safety risks — makes workplaces safer for employees and the environment, while also ensuring organizations stay productive and mitigate unnecessary costs. A health and safety incident not only affects employee safety and morale, but it can also affect an organization’s finances. Health and safety incidents disrupt operations and can lead to costly worker’s compensation and property damage claims, environmental clean-up costs, and insurance premium hikes. Incidents can also do immeasurable damage to company reputation.
Effective, efficient incident management is essential to prevent and minimize harm.
The Incident Management Process
Incident management processes can be broken down into four essential steps:
- 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. Regular quality audits can help identify safety gaps, improve training and ensure compliance with government regulations.
- Respond. Unfortunately, accidents 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, 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, including details on what happened, the root causes, 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 Is a Cycle
Continuous incident management provides the foundation for an effective safety culture. Safety is a team effort, and it depends heavily on individual players. Every employee’s actions matter, and every incident and near miss supplies vital information to prevent and mitigate future risk.