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Reporting accidents at work

Reporting is a tool often used for reduction of accidents at workplaces

By obtaining reports from each accident at a workplace, one will be able to analyse the cause of the accident, and make improvements. Also, such reporting systems gives the workplace an overview of the accidents, and these statistics can be used to evaluate the safety situation at the work site. In many countries, law requires reporting accidents and injuries. In these countries, the reporting also gives a possibility of a national overview over such incidents. However, here we will concentrate on the local reporting within a company.

How to report within a company

Companies have different report forms. They also have different rules regarding what to report. It is common to report accidents that lead to an injury of a person. However, some companies report other types of accidents as well. The past years, many companies report ‘near-misses’ and not only the real accidents.

A form can contain:

  • Date and time of report
  • Name of person reporting
  • A short description of what happened; who and what and when and where, as well as name of the injured person(s)

The report should be delivered to that manager or supervisor at the work site. The report should be written as soon as possible after the event.

Some companies have developed short report forms to be used by an app on the phone, others have small notebooks with report forms. The idea is to make it as easy as possible to make a report.

The safety culture may influence reports

Some companies may put up goals for the work place, like ‘Zero accidents in this company this month’. In such workplaces, the workers can be given an award if the goal is reached, and can be punished if the goal is not reached. This might seem like a good idea, but at certain work places, this can have undesired consequences. Several times companies have experienced that workers do not report injuries at their work site, because they are afraid of their colleagues. They do not want to be the one destroying the possibility of an award. This may happen in companies where the safety culture is negative. Workers can be seriously harmed and hide it, to avoid to make trouble for the others. Sometimes this can be disastrous for the worker, and it can result in workers not receiving needed medical care in time. In a safe work environment, with an open safety culture, this would never happen.

The aim of reporting systems must primarily be to reduce injuries and harm to the workers, not to get good figures in the statistics of the company. In a company with a good safety culture, the workers feel safe to report their injuries. Rewards should be given for activities in preventing accidents, to make the workers proactive in the safety work.

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This article is from the free online course:

Occupational Health in Developing Countries

University of Bergen