Health and Safety

Incident Reporting in the workplace


Workplace incidents and reporting thereof, are by far the most underestimated and ignored in the field of Safety Management. A lot of times, finger pointing and apportioning of blame become the order of the day whenever a work-related safety incident occurs. While workers may feel that the root cause of such incidents may be linked to employers who don’t care about their employee’s safety and wellbeing, employers equally feel that the underlying cause could be that employees take short cuts and don’t follow safety procedures. This becomes a back and forth struggle with no real winners at the end.

The Occupational Health and Safety Act places the burden on the employer in ensuring that a safe workplace is provided. It further commands the employer in Section 24, outlining categories of incidents that must be reported to the Labour Inspector whenever employees meet with an accident in line with what is stipulated in that clause. Just like any other relationship, workplace safety is a give and take between employers and employees. It is very clear that blame shifting will not work at the end. There are various reasons why employees don’t want to report incidents on the workplace, here’s a few:

Why employees don’t report incidents

  • Fear of victimisation
  • Workers think they'll get in trouble for almost having an accident.
  • It's embarrassing
  • Workers don't want to be called on to explain their embarrassing accident.
  • Lack of knowledge
  • If workers are not trained on Incident reporting procedures,
  • Lack of procedures
  • Lack of procedures could lead workers not reporting at all.
  • Production targets
  • Sometimes workers fear losing their bonuses if they report an incident.

Incidents are indicators of the wellbeing of any Safety Management system. We often consider them to be lagging indicators of a safety performance, which means that they are one of the tools with which employers can measure themselves against regarding safety compliance. This shouldn’t be misunderstood or misinterpreted as promoting the occurrence of incidents but a mere measure of the effectiveness of safety program. So, the number of incidents should tell you whether you are on the right track or not. Here are some of the benefits of reporting incidents:

Benefits of incident reporting

  • To prevent liabilities
  • Prevent property damage
  • Avoid costs and production loss
  • To prevent a recurrence of the incident.
  • Engages the workforce (all workers at all levels) in solving problems
  • Increases safety ownership and reinforces workers' self-esteem.

Employers have a legal obligation to record and investigate all incidents so that opportunities for improvement and training are not missed as they fall through the cracks of the safety management system. That way they can tell how many “near-misses” occurred in the past as they indicate a high possibility of fatality in days to come. Near misses are also investigated to determine the root cause so that prevention can be sought, and the effectiveness of control measures be reviewed to prevent work related fatalities.  

Employers need to create an assuring environment where workers feel safe and do not fear victimisation or intimidation by their shift bosses after reporting a workplace injury. Employers have a duty train, make employees aware of incident reporting procedures and keeping of such records as they might need them in future to defend themselves and demonstrate compliance...

Written by Juliet Kekana – Managing Director – De-novo HSE Training and Consulting

For more information on health and safety services, visit our website

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Issue 414


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