Should I Report This?
“I don’t want to get in trouble.”
“I don’t want to affect our WCB rating.”
“Don’t worry, I’m fine!”
These are just a few of the statements that employees may say in the wake of an incident to avoid reporting it. Workers may not want to be in the center of attention, or do not want to make a big deal out of something that may heal within the week, or is cleaned up within the next half hour. However, reporting incidents, whether big or small, is an essential component of any health and safety program.
When people hear the words “we need to report this,” many have flashes of government officials knocking at the door, an OHS inspection, the need for a lawyer, companies being fined, and employees being blamed or punished. What individuals may not realize is that not reporting may result in something much worse. It is up to company management to educate themselves and subsequently their employees to create a safe and accepting culture of incident reporting and accident mitigation.
Incident reporting and investigation is not only a company best practice, it is a legislated requirement under the Alberta Occupational Health and Safety Act. Any incident that causes or has the potential to cause a serious injury to a person must be reported and subsequently investigated. The purpose of the investigation is not to place blame; rather, it is a vital tool for the company to identify dangerous conditions in the workplace, identify actions to correct these conditions, and prevent a similar incident from reoccurring. While one employee might say it is no big deal, it is never worth it to wait around until it is.
While it is all well and good that an incident reporting and investigation program is included within a company Health and Safety Manual, it is essential that it is reinforced and carried out. Company management needs to constantly remind their employees of the need to report all incidents, and ensure that employees are comfortable with reporting any incidents. Incidents are a learning opportunity for everyone involved, and it is beneficial to no one to sweep incidents under the rug. Managers are encouraged to bring up incident reporting in safety meetings, review WCB procedures with employees, draw up safety bulletins, and educate workers on the process associated with internal incident reporting and investigation to create a culture where employees automatically pull out an incident report whenever it is necessary. Employers might want to keep WCB rates down, but incident investigations are necessary to protect employee well-being, and allow a mutually beneficial resolution for all parties involved. Saving dollars every year on a rate statement is not worth having an incident reoccur, this time with a disabling, or potentially fatal outcome.
Finally, it is imperative that workers be made aware of the types of incidents need to be reported. An incident does not only have to mean a person going to the hospital or profusely bleeding. Incidents that need to be reported include near misses, first aid, injury, equipment damage, vehicle incident, security threats, workplace violence, workplace harassment, work refusals, spills and occupational illness. While the severity for each will differ, prevention of a similar incident is always on the table. In particular, near misses are often neglected or treated as a lesser incident. After all, nothing actually happened. What people may not realize is that one small change to a body position may have meant the loss of a limb, a serious head injury, or injury to the next person. Furthermore, a minor injury (ex. a cut on the finger) does not mean it is a “near miss.” Although minor, it is still classified as an incident. It is essential for every employee within a company to treat each incident, whether minor or severe, with the same seriousness and focus. Remember: when it comes to reporting and investigating incidents, “yes” is always the answer.