Writing an Incident Report: An Expert Guide

An employee writing an incident report

Incident reports are indispensable in various professional settings, playing a critical role in maintaining safety, accountability, and transparency. They serve as official records of events or situations that could potentially harm an individual, property, or the environment. Understanding how to properly create and utilize these reports is crucial for any organization aiming to uphold the highest standards of integrity and safety. This article delves deep into, offering comprehensive guidance, examples, and tips when it comes to writing an incident report.

Understanding Incident Report

What is an incident?

An incident encompasses any unplanned or unexpected event that occurs in the workplace, potentially leading to harm, injury, property damage, or disruption. An incident occurs from minor accidents to more severe occurrences. Here are the 3 types of workplace incidents:

  • Safety Incidents: Events that lead to injury, harm, or have the potential to cause damage, emphasizing the need for immediate action and thorough investigation.
  • Security Incidents: Situations involving unauthorized access, data breaches, or other compromises to the organization’s security infrastructure.
  • Operational Incidents: Disruptions or malfunctions in regular business operations, which could stem from equipment failure, process errors, or unforeseen external factors.

What is the definition and purpose of an incident report?

An employee incident report is a formal document used to record details of unusual or adverse events that occur at the workplace, at a facility, or any other venue. Its primary purpose is to document the facts related to an incident, enabling organizations to take corrective actions and prevent future occurrences. Incident reports are vital for creating a safer work environment, as they help identify potential hazards beforehand, protect employees, and ensure compliance with regulations.

4 Types of Incident Report

There are various types of incident reports, each serving a specific purpose.

  • Injury Reports: Utilized for documenting instances where an employee or visitor sustains an injury on the premises.
  • Property Damage Reports: Used to record situations where there is damage to the assets or property of the company.
  • Near Miss Reports: Pertains to incidents that had the potential to cause harm or damage but fortunately did not result in any adverse outcomes.
  • Safety Violation Reports: Filed in cases where there is a violation or breach of established safety protocols and procedures.

When and why should I file an incident report?

An incident report should be filed as soon as possible after the occurrence of an event. Prompt reporting ensures that all details are accurately recorded, and necessary actions can be taken swiftly to prevent similar incidents. Filing an incident report is crucial for legal compliance, as it may be required by laws and regulations. Moreover, this incident report aids in identifying trends and patterns, helping organizations to proactively address potential issues and improve overall safety.

Writing an Incident Report

5 Elements of an Incident Report

An effective incident report must include several key components. Below, we delve into the five essential elements that should be included in every incident report, providing a structured approach to incident management and response.

  • Date, Time, and Location: Precise documentation of when and where the incident took place.
  • Involved Parties: Detailed information about all the individuals involved, including their names, contact details, and their roles in the incident.
  • Description of the Incident: A comprehensive and clear narrative explaining what happened, including any events leading up to the incident.
  • Impact and Consequences: An evaluation of the damage, injuries, or any other impacts that resulted from the incident.
  • Actions Taken: Documentation of the immediate response and any subsequent actions taken to address the incident and prevent its recurrence.

10 Tips for Writing an Incident Report

Crafting a precise and informative incident report is a critical task that demands attention to detail and a clear-headed approach. To aid in this process, consider the following ten vital tips:

  1. Document every detail of the incident immediately as accuracy and timing are crucial.
  2. Rely solely on factual, verifiable information to maintain the report’s credibility.
  3. Write clearly and directly, avoiding any unnecessary jargon or complex language.
  4. Capture every pertinent detail to provide a comprehensive understanding of the incident.
  5. Keep your tone objective and professional throughout the entire report.
  6. Ensure that others can easily read your handwriting or choose a legible font if typing.
  7. Write from your perspective, using "I" to describe your own actions and observations.
  8. Incorporate accounts from any witnesses to strengthen the report’s reliability.
  9. Attach any available photos, videos, or documents that can substantiate your report.
  10. Carefully review and revise the report to ensure its accuracy and completeness before submission.

What should I avoid in writing an incident report?

When composing an incident report, steer clear of speculative or opinionated statements, focusing solely on the facts. Avoid using ambiguous language, as precision is key to accurately conveying the events that transpired. Refrain from assigning blame or making assumptions about the motivations behind individuals’ actions, as this can lead to biased reporting. Ensure that personal feelings or relationships with the individuals involved do not influence the report’s content. Lastly, resist the temptation to omit key details that might seem insignificant, as they could prove crucial in understanding the full context of the incident.

Incident Report Templates and Forms

Incident report templates provide a standardized document format, ensuring consistency and completeness in reporting. These templates are widely available online and can be easily customized to suit the specific needs of your organization. Using employee incident report template helps streamline the incident reporting process further, saving time and reducing the likelihood of missing crucial information.

While incident report form templates provide a solid foundation for effective investigations, it is equally important to customize them to reflect the unique requirements and details of your situation. Adjust fields as necessary, and ensure that the form prompts users to provide all needed information. This customization ensures that the incident report template is both comprehensive and specific to the incident at hand.

Sample of Incident Report for Employee

Providing employees with real-life examples of completed incident report can be an invaluable training tool. These examples help illustrate what a well-constructed incident report template looks like, highlighting the level of detail and clarity required. By analyzing these incident report examples, employees can better understand the expectations and standards of incident reporting within the organization. Here is an incident report example:

Date: October 26, 2023

Time: 2:15 PM

Location: Warehouse Section B

Employee Involved: John Doe

Reported By: Jane Smith, Supervisor

Witnesses: Michael Brown, Warehouse Assistant

Incident Description:

At approximately 2:15 PM, John Doe was operating a forklift in Warehouse Section B when he accidentally collided with a shelving unit. The shelving unit, loaded with boxes of inventory, toppled over as a result. John immediately turned off the forklift and stepped out to assess the situation.

Injury Details (if any):

John sustained a minor injury to his left arm. He was immediately attended to by the on-site medical personnel and was advised to visit a healthcare professional for a thorough check-up.

Damage to Property:

Approximately 20 boxes of inventory were damaged due to the impact. The shelving unit also sustained noticeable damage and will require repairs.

Immediate Action Taken:

The area was immediately secured to prevent further incidents. The on-site safety officer conducted a preliminary investigation, and the damaged goods were removed for assessment. John was relieved from his duties for the day and advised to seek medical attention.

Recommendations for Future Prevention:

It is recommended that a thorough inspection of all forklifts and shelving units in the warehouse be conducted to ensure they are in proper working condition. Additionally, refresher training on forklift operation and safety protocols should be provided to all employees operating heavy machinery.

Report Filed By:

Jane Smith

Supervisor, Warehouse Operations


[Jane Smith’s Signature]

This sample incident report provides a clear and concise account of the events, adheres to a factual tone, the specific details, and outlines recommendations for corrective action in preventing future occurrences of similar incidents.

Alongside providing examples, it is beneficial to offer analysis and commentary on what works well in a report and what does not. Point out the strengths of a well-written report, and the potential risks, and highlight areas that could be improved. This constructive feedback helps employees refine their reporting skills, leading to more accurate and effective documentation.

Legal and Ethical Considerations

Understanding the Legal Implications

Incident reports can have significant legal implications, particularly if the incident results in injury or involves a safety violation. Ensuring accuracy and honesty in reporting is paramount, as these documents may be used in legal proceedings. Avoiding embellishments and sticking strictly to the facts helps protect both the individual filing the incident report form and the organization.

Ensuring Confidentiality and Privacy

Maintaining the confidentiality and privacy of all individuals involved in an incident is a critical ethical consideration. Personal information should be protected, and the report should only be accessible to individuals who require it for investigation and resolution purposes in court cases. Upholding these standards helps build trust and ensures all parties involved have a fair and respectful reporting process.

Implementing Incident Reporting 

A team of workers collaboratively discussing a task

Culture of Accountability

Fostering a culture of accountability and transparency is crucial for successful incident reporting. Encourage employees to report incidents promptly and ensure they understand the importance of accurate reporting. Providing training and resources can help build this culture, as it demonstrates the organization’s commitment to safety and accountability.

Training and Resources

Investing in training programs and resources for incident reporting is an effective way to improve the process within your organization. Provide clear guidelines on when and how to file a report, and ensure that employees have access to the necessary incident report forms and templates. Providing ongoing training helps keep employees up-to-date on best practices and ensures that incident reporting is a well-integrated part of your workplace safety strategy.

Continuous Improvement

An incident report provides a crucial foundation for continuous improvement within organizations, offering invaluable insights to enhance safety, make informed decisions, and drive accountability.

  • Learning from Historical Data: By examining past incidents, organizations can identify recurring issues and potential areas of vulnerability, informing future preventative strategies.
  • Strategic Decision-Making: The data amassed from incident reports is a valuable resource for making strategic decisions, guiding policy adjustments, resource allocation, and the implementation of preventive measures.
  • Elevating Safety Measures: These reports shed light on deficiencies in existing safety protocols, prompting necessary updates and enhancements to better protect employees and assets.
  • Transparent Stakeholder Communication: Utilizing insights from incident report to communicate openly with stakeholders demonstrates a commitment to transparency and ongoing improvement, building trust and confidence in the organization’s safety culture.
  • Enhancing Organizational Resilience: Identifying weaknesses and learning from past incidents, as highlighted in the reports, strengthens the organization’s ability to withstand future challenges and disruptions.

Incident reports are essential for upholding safety and transparency across various industries and job practices. Effective reporting hinges on comprehending its objectives, the inclusion of pertinent details, and clear communication. However, while documenting incidents is crucial, prioritizing prevention yields even better outcomes for workplace safety. Using clear and bold workplace signs, implementing efficient lockout/tagout procedures with proper LOTO devices, and promoting a holistic culture of safety can significantly improve workplace incident prevention.

The material provided in this article is for general information purposes only. It is not intended to replace professional/legal advice or substitute government regulations, industry standards, or other requirements specific to any business/activity. While we made sure to provide accurate and reliable information, we make no representation that the details or sources are up-to-date, complete or remain available. Readers should consult with an industrial safety expert, qualified professional, or attorney for any specific concerns and questions.


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Author: Herbert Post

Born in the Philadelphia area and raised in Houston by a family who was predominately employed in heavy manufacturing. Herb took a liking to factory processes and later safety compliance where he has spent the last 13 years facilitating best practices and teaching updated regulations. He is married with two children and a St Bernard named Jose. Herb is a self-described compliance geek. When he isn’t studying safety reports and regulatory interpretations he enjoys racquetball and watching his favorite football team, the Dallas Cowboys.