Following the feedback received from our recent webinar titled “Maximise Incident Management to Minimise Accidents” we have put an article together answering your most pressing questions in relation to the topic of reporting of incidents.
Catherine Jordan, Product Specialist, EcoOnline and Dermot Dinan Sales Manager, UK and Ireland, EcoOnline took an in-depth look at incident management in the workplace and how good incident management policies, procedures and practices lead to reduced accident rates
If you missed the session on Thursday 21 January 2021, you can register to listen back to the on-demand recording here.
Catherine Jordan Dermot Dinan Product Specialist, EcoOnline Solutions Manager, EcoOnline
Q: What role does management play in protecting its workforce?
Catherine Jordan (CJ): “Protecting the health & safety of all in the workplace is a legal requirement. To effectively manage health & safety, a structured management approach to control safety risks in the form of a safety management system is used. The management systems are used to document safe systems of work. Methods of doing each job which eliminates identified hazards, controls others and is designed to achieve controlled completion of work with minimum risk. Safe systems of work are fundamental to incident prevention and must be documented to demonstrate the hazards, the precautions/controls and safe working methods.”
Q: Are health & safety loss events the same as incidents causing injury?
CJ: “Fully understanding the terminology around this topic is a must. An accident is referred to as an incident. According to The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), ‘the word accident implies that the injury-causing event was random and impossible to prevent. OSHA’s stance is that most workplace injuries, illnesses, and fatalities are preventable’ (OSHA, 2018). Incident for the purposes of this article is used an umbrella term which encapsulates, an injury causing event, health & safety loss event, near miss, good catch, undesired circumstance, dangerous occurrence etc.”
Q: How can we encourage staff to report incidents?
CJ: “Year on year lost time incidents occur in the workplace placing needless costs on businesses and the economy generally. We must ask ourselves why? Why with all the information and guidelines available do we continue to have workplace incidents? What can we do? The answer to these questions will vary across all workplaces. By going back to basics and using a common-sense structured approach, a reduction in incidents and control can be achieved, we must work as a team. From experience the lack of control is often due to a lack of communication and involvement of those in the workplace. Looking at the top four aspects of incident management above, these are interlinked; to manage incidents we must report near misses, investigate to ascertain the cause(s) and instill this behaviour within our workforce. Incident management must be a team effort, report, investigate, record, act, measure performance and continually improve.”
Implementing Incident Management Systems in 2021
Q: In what ways can we help remove the stigma around paperwork and fear of reporting?
CJ: “The reporting of incidents both externally and internally is often met with fear, a fear of blame or repercussion. An employer may fear attracting the attention of the authorities and an employee may fear losing their job. However, by reporting, our governing authorities can enhance their efforts and create new tools to assist with incident management and internally we can achieve a positive culture and reduce unnecessary costs. Where the concept of reporting is new to employees the benefits must be demonstrated by acting quickly on hazards reported and communicating with all throughout. Reporting should be encouraged, and management should work more closely with their employees to prioritise safety. To address the stigma and reduce the burden of paperwork look to adapting your software platforms or adding a function to your platforms.
Today there are many online tools available which more than pay for their cost when measured against the direct and indirect costs of incidents. Using software systems particularly mobile systems allows all staff members to report incidents using their mobile device and to report anonymously. Get buy in from your employees, rather than demanding that x number of incidents be reported, involve them in a challenge of reducing incident costs by x% and celebrate and acknowledge efforts as you achieve your goals and targets. Depending on your workforce gamification may work as an incentive, such as, the department who achieves the greatest reduction in incidents receives the ‘safety trophies’. Protecting one another’s safety is serious but there can be an element of fun in achieving it.”
Q: You say we need to involve all levels of personnel in incident investigation – for smaller companies does there need to be cut off point somewhere involving the scale of the incident?
CJ: “As with the reporting element of incident management, involving employees at all levels in the investigation of incidents is fundamental to arriving at the best solution or preventive measure. Each incident will require a different response, the number of staff and the different skillsets you involve will vary accordingly. There are no rules on how many individuals should investigate the incident, the investigation should be planned, and the team allocated based on the incident type, where in your workplace it occurred etc.”
Q: How do near misses act as leading indicators in the reporting system?
CJ: “Of course, having one’s employees on board with reporting incidents must be met with a structured approach to investigating and identifying the cause(s) and taking action to prevent an injury or loss. Take advantage of the ‘free warnings’ and demonstrate the commitment to safety to your employees. A near miss/good catch is leading, it indicates an area where safety could possibly fail or where a newly identified hazard that could cause injury. These free warnings if acted upon can lead to the prevention of an injury. Assess, plan and act to achieve the best results, the best solutions, and preventative measures.”
Q: Is it more important to spend a long time fully investigating the incidents or is it better to do a faster investigation and focus on making one improvement?
CJ: “Fully investigate all incidents and determine actions, no matter how many are required. It is more effective to determine all actions and then prioritise which actions should be completed immediately and so on. Work on the immediate actions required first, remember to keep your team informed on the planned actions, timelines and on the progress. Communicate with and involve your workforce. The more actions taken and the more solutions that are put in place the safer your workplace will become.”
Q: Do you advise that every job task undertaken needs to be risk assessed?
CJ: It is important to note that prevention of incidents starts with good, practical health and safety management, identifying hazards, analysing risk, and implementing controls for all job tasks. Managing incidents through safety audits, reporting, investigating, and implementing solutions is only one element of the safety management system albeit a valuable one, as the causes and controls following incident reporting and investigating can be used to better inform your safety management system.
Q: How do you deal with complacency and underreporting in the workplace?
CJ: It must be acknowledged that the problems of underreporting and complacency continue to hamper safety efforts in some workplaces. Again, trend analysis of incidents should highlight these and direct management in their efforts. Reporting systems particularly ‘frictionless reporting’ assist business with underreporting statistics and toolbox talks, variation in job tasks, gamification can assist with the issue of complacency.
Minimising Accidents with EcoOnline EHS platform
Q: What about personal data concerns with using WhatsApp and other apps? Are these secure within IT data and security standards?
Dermot Dinan: “Within the EcoOnline platform, 3rd party messaging apps such as WhatsApp, text messaging or Teams can be used for the rapid frictionless reporting of incidents. Essentially, they are used as a way of flagging to the EHS team that an incident has occurred with minimal data being transmitted.
Subsequent investigations, reports, actions etc arising from the incident will not be completed through these apps and therefore their security is not open to being compromised.
Q: Can the app be linked directly to existing systems such a Datix and therefore does it have end to end encryption?
DD: “Yes, the EcoOnline EHS platform can be linked directly to existing systems using APIs.
During your initial consultation with your EcoOnline solutions advisor we will assess your full requirements and subsequently, if a link to an existing system is required, we will involve our data architects (in conjunction with similar from the clients side) to produce a solution to fit the needs of the client.”
Does the EcoOnline system allow me, as a health and safety advisor, to access my customers incident reporting so that I can keep an eye on things from afar?
DD: “Yes. One of the advantages of using a cloud-based system such as Ava is that, once you have an account setup with the required privileges, you will have access to the account information wherever you login.”
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