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Every seven seconds, a worker is injured on the job, totaling 4,500,000 injuries per year. Astounding statistics. The worst part? Many of these injuries are preventable.

Loss reduction efforts and improvements in safe workplace behavior require the cooperation of everyone in an organization. When incidents and near misses aren't reported, injuries occur that might have been prevented—at a significant cost to injured employees, their families and communities, and their employers. An effective approach to incident management encourages an expansion in the reporting of incidents and near misses by both workers and their supervisors.

Authors of an academic study found a significant amount of published research related to organizational design guidelines for setting up incident reporting programs. Yet they uncovered far less research covering the reasons for the failure on the part of workers to report incidents. What they were able to find was grouped in four factors:

  • Practicality (reporting takes too much time or is too difficult)
  • Fear (retribution from their employer or the negative reaction of others)
  • Pointlessness (the perception that management takes no notice and is unlikely to act in relation to the problem)
  • Risk acceptance (the falsely held belief that incidents are part of the job and cannot be prevented; or the perception that “it won’t happen to me”)

These are echoed in Reporting and Using Near-miss Events to Improve Patient Safety in Diverse Primary Care Practices: A Collaborative Approach to Learning from Our Mistakes, which found that common concerns include “the additional workload burden, concern over punitive action, lack of confidence that positive change will result, and psychological barriers to admitting an error.”

There is no quick fix when it comes addressing the factors that inhibit reporting. However, taking a number of practical steps that include making it easier to submit reports (addressing practicality) and allowing for anonymous reporting (reducing fear) can be a foundation upon which to build an effective safety program. With more data to draw from, the ability of risk managers and safety professionals to identify, analyze, and take strategic action to reduce the likelihood of injury is vastly improved. Over time, this can contribute to a break down in perceptions of uselessness and acceptance of risk.

Make it easier for employees to report incidents and near misses

The more difficult it is to provide details of incidents and near misses, the less likely employees are to bother doing so. As the author of the EHS Today article The Top 9 Reasons Workers Don't Report Near Misses puts it, “If an organization makes near misses difficult to report, with confusing paperwork or a convoluted process, workers won't do it."

Risk managers and safety professionals can encourage enterprise-wide participation in the collection of critical risk and safety data by improving the reporting options available to employees where they occur—in the field or on the factory floor.

Mobile devices are becoming more widespread as an effective means of improving incident intake, allowing for reporting from remote locations where internet access is not available. Another way to replace paper-based, convoluted collection processes is to use a tool that allows for direct reporting via web browser or a secure portal placed on a company intranet page.

Make reporting of incidents and near misses anonymous

Whether founded in fact or not, the reality is that many workers fear there will be consequences for reporting incidents. The result? These workers will not do so, no matter how many improvements are made to the reporting process.

Fear of retribution is not limited to the reporting incidents, as the article 10 Reasons Workers Don’t Report Near-Misses makes clear. “Workers think they'll get in trouble for almost having an accident.”

Making reporting anonymous conveys that the reporting of incidents and near misses is about safety rather than punishment or shaming. Not only is workplace safety promoted, but risk management and safety professionals also gain access to the data they can use to take a more strategic approach to addressing hazards.

Improve enterprise-wide incident and near miss data collection

To improve the reporting of incidents and near misses, reporting should be easier and anonymous. Origami Risk offers both. Enterprise-wide incident collection functionality makes it possible for users to anonymously report incidents and near misses via a secure portal.

Welcome pages can be configured to include a company logo along with any special instructions that may be necessary. Users simply click a link to access. There is no need to remember a username or password.

The forms available to users can be restricted by role, location, incident type, or other factors.

Users complete form fields, attaching files if necessary.

Pages can also be configured to confirm successful submission and provide additional information or instructions.

Promote a culture of safety by actively engaging users in incident and near miss reporting

An effective, enterprise-wide approach to collecting incident and near miss details requires a flexible technology solution that makes reporting easier and allows for anonymous reporting. Configurable intake tools in Origami Risk are designed to encourage the accurate and timely reporting of workplace incidents, so that data can be put to work identifying, analyzing, and correcting hazards. And by actively engaging the users in these processes, technology can play a role in promoting a culture of safety throughout any organization.

Prior to use of Origami Risk for the reporting of incidents, a leading marine towing and transportation provider relied on incident details being taken down by hand or entered into a PDF template. Today, their incident entry is not only more efficient, it is contributing to the quality of data available for reporting. In fact, adoption of incident entry workflows was successful enough to prompt later development of a similar approach for the capture of near miss data.