While most companies now understand the importance of keeping their workers safe (and whether they do that successfully is a topic for another day), there seems to be a real gap in effective incident management, investigation and response.
Incident Management is after all the ‘bridge’ between incident and claim. Some companies do it well, some do it poorly and some don’t really do it at all.
If your worker is injured, what happens next is critical. Getting your incident reporting and response process right is crucial if you want to ensure a successful injury and/or claim outcome.
Worker is injured, RTW Coordinator doesn’t find out for almost a week. Meanwhile, the worker is still off work, hasn’t heard from anyone, is becoming less motivated and now the company may have a Lost Time Injury. The horse has bolted – sound familiar? This might have been avoided with a more effective incident reporting process.
There are so many benefits to getting your incident reporting and response system right.
- Make sure all incidents are reported quickly – a simple effective process will help with this
- Get to work early by responding to all incidents – a quick phone call to the worker (and supervisor) goes a very long way
- Investigate all incidents - prevention is paramount; if you aren’t aware of the cause then removing or reducing the risk is more difficult.
- Involve Supervisors/Managers throughout the entire process – it is their worker after all
- Set and manage expectations from all involved – effective communication is a powerful tool
- Educate, educate, educate – make sure that everyone knows their rights, roles and responsibilities
- Monitor, Measure, Improve, Reinforce – keeps the system working well
Make sure you implement the one that best suits your organisation. This will take time and research if you are going to get it right. Don’t just assume, do your homework. Employing an effective project and change management approach will help you get there.
If you go paper-based make sure that it is user friendly and backed up by good policies and procedures with simple templates and clear guidelines. Most people don’t want to complete a long, wordy, technically complex form – so keep it as simple as you can (where possible).
If you choose an online system ensure that everyone has access and training or at the very least, access to clear instructions on how to submit an incident report.
Or if it’s a call centre approach, again, it needs to be user friendly. Having a process that takes 30 minutes to extract the information from the caller after being on hold for 20 minutes is just not workable. A call lasting less than four minutes is your ultimate aim.
Not all incidents involve lost time or treatment or become claims however if left unchecked they can and do escalate.
An effective, consistent process for reporting and responding to incidents has many benefits;
- Provides early intervention, medical advice and support
- Demonstrates management commitment
- Reduces lost time duration and claim numbers
- Improves return to work outcomes
- Provides a productive and supportive workplace
- Builds staff confidence and morale
- Contains the cost of incapacity and resultant premium
- Reduces the indirect costs (loss of productivity, recruitment and training)
- Increases understanding of organisation risk (via incident investigations and statistical reporting)
A simple, accessible and user friendly system is the key. Whether it is paper-based, call centre or online keep it simple. And most importantly keep it personal. So, your worker has submitted an incident form but has anyone responded to it?
Early action or should I say reaction, communication and follow up will make the difference.
Let me go back to ‘accessible’ for a moment. I know; it’s obvious to have a system that is accessible.
But in reality it’s not always that easy. In a previous role I was faced with the prospect of overhauling the entire incident management process for a very large company providing services around the clock. To make matters worse >90% of the employees were on client sites with less than 6% having access to company email and intranet.
So how could I implement a process that would cater to everyone? The only common denominator was that everyone had access to a telephone. So I went for a 24/7 Incident Reporting Hotline. Not only was it deceivingly cost effective it also had a profound impact on the Health and Safety culture of the organisation.
Communicate, Educate, Reinforce. The importance of regularly reinforcing incident reporting cannot be overstated. If you take the eye off the ball, they will take their eye off the ball. Not because they don’t care, in business everyone has countless competing priorities so you have to keep it in their faces (so to speak).
And everyone involved in the claims or injury management function can educate. As a claims manager every time you notice late reporting pick up the phone and encourage that employer to focus on early reporting. Reinforce the benefits. And if they don’t know how, guide them to the help that is out there. At the risk of sounding repetitive – simplicity is the key.
Ask someone to review the documents; having a layperson provide feedback is invaluable. After all they are the ones that need to use the system. And if you are in an industry that dictates a level of technical complexity try to find a way to do this without the process becoming too onerous.
Getting your workers to report is only one step in the process. But when we talk about incident response this is twofold. Ensuring that all incidents are investigated is so important.
Regardless of which method your company uses to undertake the investigations make sure that the information is collected, shared and stored appropriately. This could be online (via a database) or hard copy with the H&S Manager or even on the claims file kept with the internal workers compensation team. However always being mindful of privacy and other relevant legislation.
Clear linkages between incident reporting/response and investigation/outcomes is invaluable from a prevention, risk management, liability and claims management perspective.