Unfortunately, work-related accidents and incidents occur on a daily basis in Canadian workplaces. Accident and incident reporting is essential for the prevention of recurrences and the betterment of worker health and safety. According to the Occupational Health and Safety Act, workers are required to report any workplace injury to their Supervisor no later than the end of the shift in which the accident occurred.
In industry, there are various definitions for the terms accident and incident; all of them very similar. For the purposes of this blog, I will be using the following accepted definitions.
- An accident is an undesired event that results in harm to people, damage to property, or loss to process.
- An incident is an undesired event which, under slightly different circumstances, could have resulted in harm to people, damage to property, or loss to process; this is also known as a near miss.
An incident where damage or loss of process is incurred will be documented and reported as an accident. An incident where there is no damage or loss of process will be reported and investigated as an incident. A near miss will be treated as an incident and investigated to show cause, prevent recurrence, and determine potential consequences.
Reportable accidents or incidents include near misses, environmental spills, unusual occurrences, occupational illnesses, critical and non-critical injuries, and fatalities.
The causes of accidents and incidents are many and include such things as inadequate supervision, mental and physical stress, inadequate tools, equipment and materials, poor housekeeping, failure to follow proper procedures, inadequate ventilation, failure to observe warning signs, hazardous environments, inadequate guarding or barricading, and so on.
To avoid accidents and incidents, workers must report to work ‘fit for duty’, work in compliance with the Occupational Health and Safety Act and regulations, and use or wear the equipment, protective devices or clothing required by their employer. Workers must not engage in conduct that could contribute to workplace accidents or operate equipment, machinery or devices in a manner that could endanger themselves or others. They must also report the absence of or defect in any equipment or protective device of which they are aware and report any contravention of the Act or regulations or the existence of any known hazard.
Accident and incident reporting is not about reprimanding workers. It is about learning from our mistakes, preventing recurrences, and improving worker safety, so that everyone goes home safe and healthy at the end of the day.