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Blog Human Resources

How to Write an Effective Incident Report [Templates]

By Victoria Clarke , Oct 18, 2021

How to Write an Effective Incident Report [Templates] Blog Header

We all do our best to ensure a happy and healthy workforce. That’s why, in a perfect world, you would never have to create an incident report.

But since incidents do happen, it’s never a bad idea to be prepared for any situation–especially the unexpected.  

Small business owners, human resources teams and workplace emergency first responders: this is the article for you! 

In this step-by-step guide, we’ll share our top tips on creating incident reports that will help you carry out effective investigations and make sure similar (or more serious) incidents don’t happen again.  We’ll also include our top templates to get the job done.


Table of Contents:

how to write a professional incident report


All of the templates in this post can be customized using our easy online  incident report maker  tool. It’s free to sign up, many of our templates are free to use too.

1. What is an Incident Report? 

An incident report is a form to document all workplace illnesses, injuries, near misses and accidents. An incident report should be completed at the time an incident occurs no matter how minor an injury is.

Here’s one example:

how to write a professional incident report

Any illness or injury that impacts an employee’s ability to work must be noted. The specifics of what is required by law to be included in an incident report will vary depending on the federal or provincial legislation that affects your workplace.

If you’re unsure, you can take a look at your government’s website for more details. In certain cases, there are exceptions that can exempt small businesses from complying with such legislation. 

Employee Incident Report Template Venngage


2. Incident Report Examples and Design Tips

Here are some examples of type of incident reports to help you get started. I’ve also included some report design tips to help you present your information effectively. We’ve also got a comprehensive guide to general report design if you want to dig a bit deeper into the topic.

Incorporate your branding into your report design

As with any document you create for your business, it’s good practice to incorporate your branding into your incident reports. (Psst– Venngage’s Brand Kit feature makes it easy to add your branding in just a click!) 

Include your brand colors into your design. You can do this by using them in the report header, footer, side bar, and in any visuals. 

You could use your brand colors in the background of your incident report:

how to write a professional incident report

You may also want to include your logo, like in this incident report template : 

how to write a professional incident report

Organize your information into sections using boxes

To make your information as readable as possible, organize it into sections. One of the easiest ways to do this is by using boxes.

For example, take a look at how these type of incident report templates use boxes to section off the information:

how to write a professional incident report

This type of incident report example also uses rectangles to denote section headers:

Simple Incident Report Template

Color code the sections of your incident case report

Colors aren’t just great for making your reports , presentations and charts more interesting to look at. You can also use color to organize sections of your report and to draw attention to key information. 

For more tips on using color in your designs, read our guide on how to pick colors to communicate effectively .

how to write a professional incident report

Add a visual header to your incident report

As part of your company branding, you may want to add a visual header to your reports. For example, this incident case report template uses a neutral photo with a color filter to create a professional header:

how to write a professional incident report

You can do this in Venngage by overlaying a photo on a color background and adjusting the opacity of the photo: 

Image Opacity Venngage

You can use the same effect for side bars as well: 

how to write a professional incident report

Make a mock form to offer news team members as an example

If you’re transitioning in staff or something happens when the individual who owns incident reports is away, it’s very important that there is a process documented . That will ensure that if someone is put on the spot, they can fill in the incident report properly.

It can also be helpful to add brief descriptions of the information in the type of incident report to include in each field. Take a look at how this incident report example offers some brief text to guide the person filling it out:

how to write a professional incident report

Use icons to visualize concepts

Icons are small, compact visuals that can be used to reinforce information in your reports. You can also use them to draw attention to specific fields and important pieces of information. 

For example, this incident case report template uses icons to indicate the purpose of each field:

how to write a professional incident report

3. How to Write an Incident Report 

It’s important to establish a systematic method for investigating incidents.  

It’s also equally important to have a report prepared that enables you to record every relevant aspect of the incident details–this is the essential first step in the incident reporting process.  

After you’ve created your incident report form, you can: 

To  write any incident case reports, follow the basic format described below.

how to write a professional incident report


1. Take Immediate Action 

Employees of your organization should notify their manager or another member of the company’s leadership committee as soon as an incident occurs–regardless of the nature of the event (whether it be an accident, illness, injury or near miss).  

That being said, there needs to be communication channels clearly defined to promote the practice of employees coming forward in these situations and the importance of such.

Once an incident has been reported, the member of leadership’s first responsibility is to ensure that appropriate treatment, if necessary, is being administered to those affected by the event.  

On this note: if the hazard still exists, the manager that the event has been reported to must eliminate the hazard by controlling it. Each company should have a defined procedure for accomplishing this based on the nature of their work. 

For example, if there was a spill that caused a fall. You would attend to the victim and promptly have the spill wiped up and identify the area as a hazard by using a sign.

2. Collect the Facts 

Once the immediate action including the response to the event and eliminating the hazard from the environment has been conducted, it’s time to determine and record the facts related to the incident details. 

how to write a professional incident report


Facts related to the incident include: 

Identify the specific location, time and date of the incident. This information is fundamental to the investigation and the most obvious information to collect. 

The Affected

Collect details of those involved and/or affected by the incident. This would entail recording the name(s) of the individual(s) involved, their job title(s), the department(s) they operate in the manager(s) of those affected. 

The Witnesses

Speak to any witnesses of the event to collect their perspective of the event. Record their statements as detailed and accurately as possible in the form.  

To ensure accuracy, it’s best practice to review your notes with the witness to ensure they agree with how the event is portrayed on the report. It’s also important to include the name(s) of any witnesses in the report in case any additional questioning is required. 

The Context

Consider and document the events that occurred leading up to the incident. Ask:

It is important to identify which factors were an outcome of the incident and which factors were present prior to the incident and could be a potential contributing factor to the incident occurring.

The Actions

In the report, you must specify the actions of those involved at the time of the incident. What did the employee do that led to the incident? 

For example, if an employee injured their back when lifting a box at work, it is important to determine how that employee lifted the box to decide if that contributed to their injury. If yes, then inquire if this employee was trained properly for this task and by who or what source? 

The Environment

Identify and record environmental conditions that contributed to the event. Was there inadequate lighting? Was a piece of equipment not operating properly? Was the employees visibility obstructed by a glare or blind spot? Etc. 

The Injuries

Record detailed descriptions of specific injuries and evaluate the severity of such in the report. This description should include part(s) of body injured, nature and extent of injuries. 

The Treatment

It is also important to document in the incident case report the type of treatment administered for the acknowledged injuries. This information is important to document in order to understand how the employee recovers when reviewing the specifics of the event.

The Damages

Record an account of any damage to equipment, materials, etc that was affected by the incident. This will be helpful to refer back during the analysis of the event in order to consider a both a corrective action plan and to determine what items will need to be repaired or replaced. 

3. Analyze and Reflect  

Collecting and recording the facts related to the occurrence of the incident will aid in determining how the incident occurred. Analyzing the collected facts related to the incident will aid in determining why the incident occurred. 

Analyzing and determining how and why the incident occurred is essential in order to develop an effective corrective action plan. 

Potential causes for accidents or injuries that occurred in the workplace could include: 

how to write a professional incident report

4. Establish a Corrective Action Plan 

A Corrective Action Plan would provide recommendations as a means to reduce the possibility of a continued issue and/or recurrence of the incident details. The recommendations would result from an effective analysis of the facts collected and documented in the incident report. 

Elements of an effective Corrective Action Plan could include: 

how to write a professional incident report

Incident Report Examples

Covid-19 employee incident report template.

how to write a professional incident report

Blue healthcare employee critical incident report template

how to write a professional incident report

Although being prepared for the unexpected is often difficult, preventative measures are the cornerstone of maintaining a happy and healthy working environment for yourself and your workforce.  

Incident reports are a not only a defining piece in any company’s incident response protocol, but they provide a means to avoid recurring mishaps and/or inspire change. 

That’s why it is crucial to have a relevant and comprehensive incident report form prepared and on hand for any incident details that may arise. By adhering to your jurisdiction’s legislation and considering the four components prescribed above, you’ll be well prepared to handle incidents effectively.

The effect of responding to workplace incidents in a timely and detail-oriented manner will not only ensure a safe workplace, but also: 

FAQs about incident reports

What is the purpose of incident reporting.

An incident report is used to describe an event that requires an investigation which needs to be documented.

What is in an incident report?

Any event that may or may not have caused any injuries to a person is considered an incident that requires documentation in the form of an incident report.

Types of incident reports

More HR guides and templates:

12 Powerful Performance Review Examples (+ Expert Tips By an HR Manager)


17 Essential Human Resources Poster Templates

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Learn what incident report templates are, eight steps on how to write an incident report and five software solutions for creating effective incident reports.

IT incident report is documentation of an event that has disrupted the normal operation of some IT system

What is an incident report?

How to write an incident report, top 5 platforms for creating effective incident reports.

An incident report is a form used to record workplace accidents, injuries, illnesses or near misses. It’s very important to submit an incident report when an incident happens, regardless of whether it caused any injuries to employees. That’s because an incident report helps you uncover the circumstances and conditions that led to the event so you can make sure it doesn’t happen again.

Record the basic facts

Start by recording basic facts related to the incident. These include:

Note affected individuals

Collect and record details such as names, job titles, departments and any other useful information about those involved or affected by the incident.

Find witnesses

Collect details of any witnesses of the event and record their statements as detailed and accurate as possible.

Create a narrative description of the incident

Document the sequence of events that led to the incident. It’s important to specify the actions of those involved at the time of the incident. This will help you identify which factors were present before the incident and could be a potential contributing factor to the incident occurring.

Some factors to consider:

Note the injuries

If any injuries were incurred, give a detailed description and include parts of the body injured as well as the nature and severity of the injuries.

Record the treatment

Document the type of treatment administered for the acknowledged injuries so you can follow up with the employee’s progress and recovery when reviewing the specifics of the event.

Indicate damages

Record and account for any damage to equipment and materials that were affected by the incident to determine what items will need to be repaired or replaced.

Establish a corrective action plan

Analyze the facts collected and documented in the incident report and determine a corrective action plan. A corrective action plan provides recommendations for preventing the possibility of both an increase in the severity of the incident and the recurrence of the incident.

Below are five well-known and widely utilized incident report software solutions to help you quickly record any incidents as soon as they occur. These incident templates are designed to capture a comprehensive and precise account of the situation, resulting in swift and informed decisions.

SEE: The COVID-19 gender gap: Why women are leaving their jobs and how to get them back to work (free PDF) (TechRepublic)

Jotform is a free platform that lets you create custom online incident reports from your smartphone or tablet. The form is easy to fill out and you can customize it in just a few clicks.

With Jotform, you can gather important digital documents as well as collect files and electronic signatures from clients, coworkers and colleagues. There’s a Form Builder feature that offers a variety of unique form fields designed to get you the data you need. Other features include kiosk mode, geolocation fields and offline data collection.

Smartsheet is a flexible platform designed to match the needs of your team — and adapt as those needs change. The platform offers roll-up reports, dashboards and automated workflows built to keep your team connected and informed.

Smartsheet free templates can be used to report various types of events including accidents, injuries, workplace incidents, property loss or damage, and close calls. The forms allow you to record information and key metrics about all parties involved, details of the incident itself, any law enforcement interaction, witness information and any medical treatment administered.

With Smartsheet you can get real-time visibility and it’s easy to plan, capture, manage and report on work from anywhere, helping your team be more effective and get more done.

1st Reporting

1st Reporting is an all-in-one incident reporting software that empowers your field team with the tools they need to generate actionable reports to identify problem areas in their day-to-day operations. The cloud-based solution allows your in-field teams to log reports in real-time online from any device, which in turn helps get their jobs done quicker and safer.

The solution offers an incident reporting dashboard so all your reports are in one place. You can create customized inspection and incident report forms to capture the data you need from your team in the field.

You also get incident notifications and data insights so you can monitor incidents, respond and take action from your smartphone or desktop.

Delinea, previously known as ThycoticCentrify, is an innovative and intuitive platform that offers a customizable cybersecurity incident report template.

Delinea’s incident response plan templates help keep detailed records of breaches in your organization. Keeping these records can enable your incident response teams to reduce the risk of a breach from becoming a catastrophe and maintain your business continuity.

The templates also come with customization instructions for assembling an incident response team, a checklist of roles and responsibilities and details for actionable steps to measure the extent of a cyber security incident.

monday offers simple yet powerful incident templates that let you easily keep track of your incidents.

monday incident templates offer an agile, responsive, flexible way of recording everything from facts about the process of the incident to sorting or filtering your data. This helps provide greater insight into your incidents and you can easily highlight your most common root causes and the severity of your most common

The forms are highly customizable so you can add action items, reorder based on priority and create a tailored plan to fit your needs.

monday also provides a dashboard where you can assign team members to each action item and monitor your plan’s progress at every stage. You can also receive incident reports and you can also create and share a corrective action plan with your team on the dashboard.

A major benefit of using this template is you can export to Excel with just one click, and you can also import your Excel spreadsheet easily. You can also integrate monday with other existing tools such as Jira, GitLab or BugHerd, and they will automatically update your incident report templates.

Incident reports are a critical component of any company’s incident response plan. They serve as a means for creating a Corrective Action Plan to avoid repeat mistakes. Using the above applications will ensure you always have relevant and thorough incident report templates ready and available to capture details of any incident that may arise.

how to write a professional incident report

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How to Write an Incident Report

Last Updated: December 8, 2022 Approved

This article was co-authored by Clinton M. Sandvick, JD, PhD . Clinton M. Sandvick worked as a civil litigator in California for over 7 years. He received his JD from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1998 and his PhD in American History from the University of Oregon in 2013. wikiHow marks an article as reader-approved once it receives enough positive feedback. This article received 19 testimonials and 80% of readers who voted found it helpful, earning it our reader-approved status. This article has been viewed 1,149,160 times.

If you're a security guard or police officer deployed to the scene of an incident, writing up a detailed and accurate report is an important part of doing your job correctly. A good incident report gives a thorough account of what happened without glossing over unsavory information or leaving out important facts. It's crucial to follow the appropriate protocol, describe the incident clearly, and submit a polished report.

Things You Should Know

Following Protocol

Image titled Write an Incident Report Step 1

Tip: If possible, do your write up using word processing software. It will look neater, and you'll be able to use spell check to polish it when you're finished. If you write your report by hand, print clearly instead of using cursive. Don't leave people guessing whether your 7s are actually 1s.

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Describing What Happened

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Polishing the Report

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Clinton M. Sandvick, JD, PhD

If you need to write an incident report, start writing down the basic facts you need to remember as soon as possible, so you don’t start to forget details. Include the time, date, and location of the incident, as well as your name and work ID number and the names of anyone else who was present. Start by describing the general nature of the incident, then write out a detailed, first-person account of what happened. Include as many details as you can. Keep reading for tips on editing and polishing your report. Did this summary help you? Yes No

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How to write an incident report?

incident reporting form

Even with all the safety measures in place, safety incidents can still happen. The big question is: how do you learn from them?

The answer lies in the incident report.

An incident report is a written account of a situation that has occurred. It provides a record of events that led up to an accident, as well as its immediate aftermath.

The primary purpose of writing an incident report is to learn from the mistakes and prevent the recurrence of the same kind of incident in future. This is especially important if there are injuries involved, as it will help workers understand how they can avoid similar accidents in the future. It also helps management understand what went wrong and how they can improve their policies or procedures so that workers are safer in the future.

An incident report is necessary when:

Safetymint makes reporting incidents easy and efficient.

What should you include in an incident report.

An incident report is necessary to record anything from a minor mishap to a major accident and should include all relevant information such as who was involved, what happened and when it happened.

A basic incident report should contain answers to the following questions:.

What happened?

Make sure you include all the details, such as who was involved and what was damaged, lost or destroyed.

incident classification

When & where did it happen?

Your report should contain the date, time and location where the accident took place. If your company uses a system to track such information, try using that same system for your reports.

Who were involved?

Include other people who were present at the time of the incident or accident and what they did at the time of the incident. This will help determine how exactly the incident happened and any other secondary contributing factors.

What did they do?

Detail out what each of those persons was doing just before, during and after the incident. This is an important detail to help you get down to the bottom of the incident and truly understand the root cause.

Why did it happen?

Your report should explain why the accident occurred so that anyone reading it can understand how it happened and what could have been done differently to prevent it from occurring again.

Were there any witnesses?

You’ll need witness statements from the people nearby and any other involved parties to help explain an event or clarify who was involved.

What is the extent of damage to a person or property?

This would include the severity of the incident as well as any person or equipment damaged in the incident and the follow-up treatment.

Step-by-step process to write an incident report

Collect, Verify & Organize Data

1. Collect the information

The first step is to collect all the relevant information. This includes all the details of the incident, including wh en it occurred, where it took place, what happened and how many people were affected. You should also include any photos or video evidence that could be relevant. You can use checklists or an incident reporting tool like Safetymint to help you collect the necessary data.

Collect, Verify & Organize Data

2. Establish the order of events

Once you have collected all the information about an incident, you need to determine exactly what happened. An effective incident report starts with a summary of what transpired, followed by a description of each event in chronological order. The order of events is crucial because it helps investigators determine whether there is any pattern to the problem and how to fix it.

Collect, Verify & Organize Data

3. Analyze the root cause

After determining the exact sequence in which the incident occurred, you need to analyze the root cause of this problem to identify ways of preventing similar incidents from occurring in the future.

The analysis can also include a review of previous incidents that were similar in nature and frequency leading up to this particular incident. This will help you understand if there is a common cause for all these events or not.

Collect, Verify & Organize Data

4. Formulate corrective action

With the root cause of the event clear, you can then discuss to formulate corrective and preventive action (CAPA) to avoid a similar incident in the future. These corrective actions should be based on past experiences and lessons learned rather than just assumptions or guesses.

You can also involve other team members or stakeholders who may know about preventing such events from reoccurring in the future. All of these information will be helpful for the investigative team to understand what went wrong and suggest recommendations

Reporting incidents using spreadsheets?

Upgrade to Safetymint Incident Reporting System.

Best practices to follow when writing an incident report

A good incident report should include as many details as possible about the event. Here are some tips for writing an effective incident report:

Describe what happened in detail

Include all facts related to the incident, such as who was involved, when and where it took place, how many people were involved and what they were doing at the time of the accident.

For example, if someone fell from scaffolding due to faulty equipment or improper use of equipment, provide as much information about what the person was doing, the equipment they were handling and the safety protocols followed/neglected — so that others can learn from it and avoid similar mistakes in the future.

how to write a professional incident report

Be objective when describing events

Don’t editorialize or speculate about why something happened — simply state what happened and how it affected you or others involved in the accident.

The most important thing about being objective is not allowing emotion to cloud your judgment. Write down what you saw and heard, not what you thought or felt at the time. Avoid making assumptions and using words like “I think” or “I believe” when describing the events.

Be as thorough and accurate as possible, but avoid going into excessive detail about things like how you felt during the incident or what others said afterwards.

Use simple language

Your goal should be for anyone who reads your report to understand exactly what happened without needing any additional context or background information. So avoid using complex phrases or technical terms unless necessary. Otherwise, stick with simple language and avoid using abbreviations or acronyms unless they are widely accepted within your industry.

Include photos, if possible

If the incident caused physical damage, take photos so they can be included with your report. Photos will help show any damages or injuries resulting from the situation and clarify any questions about what happened during the incident.

How Safetymint can help in reporting incidents

Safetymint is an online incident management system developed to help organizations manage safety incidents, observations and near misses . It improves your safety culture by getting more people involved in reporting incidents and it enables you to gather the right data to make better decisions.

Instant reporting

Safetymint offers a simple & quick process for reporting incidents, which helps ensure that all necessary details are captured and recorded correctly. Employees can report hazards themselves through their mobile phones or computers anywhere and at any time.

No prior training

Safetymint has an intuitive interface that’s direct and simple enough that anyone with a smartphone or access to a computer can quickly report the incidents — without any prior training.

how to write a professional incident report

Overall dashboard view

The safety dashboard allows you to track your leading and lagging indicators at one glance to monitor performance and take corrective action wherever necessary. This will help you develop effective solutions for reducing injuries and improving overall workplace health and safety performance.

Custom investigation workflow

Safetymint includes a 5-step incident investigation process which includes the following steps: Incident reporting, Setting up and investigation team, Root cause analysis , Recommended actions and Review and Closure. This process can be used for both internal as well as external investigations.

Capture incidents and near-misses with accuracy.

Resolve incident with a 5-step incident investigation process. Available both on Mobile and Desktop browsers.

Incident Report Samples to Help You Describe Accidents

Team Safesite

Your company’s incident report form should make it easy to record the details of a workplace accident. Even fill-in-the-blank forms require a long-form description of the incident. This portion of the report can be the most difficult part to write.

In this article, we provide completed incident report samples to help you hone your documentation skills.

What Does an Incident Report Need to Include?

An incident report is a formal recording of the facts related to a workplace accident, injury, or near miss . Its primary purpose is to uncover the circumstances and conditions that led to the event in order to prevent future incidents. 

Every incident report you file should contain a minimum of the following:

Include quantifiable measurements where possible. For example, the ladder capacity is 250 lbs and the victim was hoisting 300 lbs. 

Finally, where more than one person is injured in an incident, create a unique report for each affected employee . While it’s fine to duplicate general details between reports of this nature, you’ll need to include details specific to that person, such as the event from their point of view or medical records.

When Does an Incident Report Need to Be Completed?

Create an incident report as soon as your employees are safe , which includes seeking medical attention and implementing an immediate corrective action to prevent further danger or damage.

By recording details immediately, you improve the accuracy of your report and the effects of your corrective actions. While it may take a few days to complete your report, it should take you only hours (or less) to start it. 

work incident requiring a report

Depending on your company policies and oversight from relevant regulatory bodies, you may be legally bound to complete an incident report within a given amount of time. If the incident resulted in a recordable injury, you must complete OSHA Form 301 within seven days. In addition, you may need to send your report to the organization providing oversight, US Federal or State OSHA , for example, within a given period of time. 

Review federal OSHA incident reporting and recordkeeping requirements or visit your state OSHA website for details. Remember that you must also report a fatality, hospitalization, or amputation directly to OSHA.

Safety Management Tip : Safesite Premium users enjoy streamlined OSHA incident recording with Safesite’s OSHA300 log integration feature .

Incident Reporting Mistakes to Avoid

Incident reports are more than a mandatory form to complete: they’re a vital part of your recordkeeping practices both for compliance and safety in general. Their importance means you want to get as much relevant information as you can as quickly as possible. But sometimes, safety teams can get in their own way and miss out on important details by making common mistakes.

Blame-casting and just getting it done are two common incident reporting mistakes you should avoid.  

It is easy to go on a witch hunt when accidents happen. However, incident reports aren’t created for the purpose of finding out who’s to blame. While staff should be held responsible (as stipulated by company policy) when they knowingly endanger themselves others, an incident report should focus on improving workplace safety.

If you make it clear you’ll abide by company policy but are not out to cast blame, you increase the likelihood that employees will participate in your incident investigation and provide honest witness statements. These factors create a stronger incident report.

In addition, if you rush through the report to “just get it done,” you may miss out on important details or lack clarity in wording. Irresponsible reporting can lead your team into even more danger, while detailed, clear reporting can lead to improved work conditions and better training. 

Three Incident Report Samples

Below are some sample incident report formats for three common types of workplace accidents. Use them as guides to effectively describe events.

Injury and Lost Time Incident Report Sample

If an injury requiring medical treatment, lost time/altered responsibilities happens in your workplace, it’s important to document it ASAP while the details are still fresh in memory. 

Here are some of the vital elements to include in your description of the incident:

Though the details above seem excessive, mentioning them in the incident report paints a more accurate picture. It’s important to include the above information in as detailed and concise a manner as possible. Holes in your report could lead to inferences and missed opportunities to create a safer workplace.

Injury Report Example 2

To write an incident report, use a narrative format. In other words, simply tell the story. Here’s an incident report sample description of a slip or fall resulting in a fracture, written in narrative form:

“On Friday afternoon, February 3, 2019, at 2 p.m. in ABC Shipping Co. located in 13th Avenue, Applewood, one of the warehouse workers (John Keegan) slipped and fell while carrying heavy (85 lbs) inventory. The root cause is believed to be the unavailability of a hand truck or pallet jack. Instead of waiting, John attempted carrying the load himself. A second possible cause is the condition of John’s PPE, specifically his boots, which are very worn in certain places.

When John fell, his colleagues rushed to his assistance. Suspecting a fracture, the supervisor on the floor (Kathy Pickens) decided to call 911. John said he felt a bit dizzy when he lost his balance and that he just ‘tripped over his feet.’ He tried to minimize damage to the load itself while falling, which may have led to a more awkward fall.

Two of his co-workers said that they noticed he was struggling a bit before the fall, but were busy with their own tasks and felt it would be rude to ‘call him out.’ See the attached witness statements for more info.

John was taken to a nearby hospital and a fracture to his wrist was confirmed. John will be out of work for a number of weeks.

The supervisor is currently working with the safety officer (Chris Darnell) to assess the condition of the floor, the number and condition of hand trucks and pallet jacks on the floor, as well as the condition of company-provided boots over two years old.”

As you can see, including the full story, complete with small details and witness statements will help you investigate and recall the incident with greater clarity.

After documenting the incident, you may have legal reporting requirements. Report and store the files according to recordkeeping requirements from regulatory bodies. It’s generally best practice to preserve the files for the duration of employment.

Exposure Incident Report Example

When exposure to dangerous chemicals or pathogens occurs, it’s important to document the event carefully in an incident report.

Including the following details will make your exposure incident report more effective:

Exposure Incident Report Sample 2

Here’s an incident report sample description for overexposure via inhalation:

“Josh Lee, a freight handler in XYZ Shipping Lines, was exposed to carbon monoxide fumes on December 2, 2017, Tuesday, from (estimated) 7:30 AM to 11:30 AM. He was at the unloading bay B, helping unload some freight from various containers with the help of two forklift operators: Kit Stevens and Donald Summers, neither of which complained of symptoms.

During unloading, Lee suddenly experienced lightheadedness and nausea. He informed his supervisor (Donna Martin) that he thought he was ill. 

Martin noticed his symptoms were consistent with CO exposure, so she walked over to the area and felt the air quality seemed off. She ran a sensor (Portable Direct Reading Monitor) and discovered that CO levels were on the high end but within the acceptable limit: 30 PPM.

Stevens and Summers were ordered to turn off powered vehicles and sit in fresh air for an hour while the ventilation system could be examined (see attached report). 

Lee was driven to the hospital by Martin to receive treatment. On the way, he complained of blurred vision briefly but said that it had cleared up upon walking into the ER. A full report will be attached once received.

Lee’s colleagues, Stevens and Summers, didn’t notice anything out of the norm with the air quality, but Summers acknowledged that at 11:00 AM, his vehicle had been left running near the open end of a container for thirty minutes while Lee was adjusting two improperly arranged pallets just inside. There is no air quality data from that time.”

Be sure to attach medical reports and lost-time from work, if any, to your initial report. Keep the report on hand for the duration of the employee’s tenure with the company, at a minimum. 

First Aid Incident Report Sample

Some workplace mishaps result in an injury that requires on-site or walk-in medical first aid treatment. Often, workers can return and finish their shift. Recording an incident report is still vitally important, even where it’s not expressly required by regulatory bodies.

First Aid Report Example 2

Here is an incident report sample description for incidents resulting in the need for first aid. 

“ On May 12, 2019, at around 9:34 AM. at King Street job site, Michael Williams was hit by an air nail gun that had been dropped by Carl Simone near the top of a staircase and gained momentum as it tumbled down. 

Williams, who was nailing drywall at the bottom of the staircase and wearing noise protective headphones, eye protection, and a short-sleeved shirt, was hit in the arm, causing a bruise and abrasion. He was treated with antiseptic, antibiotic ointment, a bandage, and an ice pack on site. Williams returned to work within a half hour. 

Simone had shouted a warning after he dropped the gun, but Williams said he did not hear it. Simone said that he simply lost his grip, but Williams said he felt that the tool may have been ‘swung’ before dropping. There were no other witnesses to report on the circumstances of the accident. 

Simone was wearing gloves when he dropped the nail gun. There are no outstanding hazards related to this incident and all workers will be reminded about glove selection and tool handling at the next safety meeting.”

While you should always document injuries requiring first aid internally, you typically don’t need to add them to your Form 300A or other regulatory reporting. In fact, doing so can needlessly elevate your incident rate.

An Incident Report Template to Improve Your System

Your incident reporting system should allow your employees to easily document all of the information listed in the incident report samples above. If your incident forms are easy to fill out in the field, you’re more likely to capture accurate, timely information. 

With Safesite, you can complete an incident report in six easy steps:

Describe The Incident 2

Safesite’s incident report form can be filled out on-site via iOS or Android app. It includes places to record the details of the event, images of the scene, and witness statements. It also allows you to raise associated hazards and identify a root cause. 

An incident report can also be completed using paper, but many companies now look to secure software to not only document and store incidents but also to trend problem areas and reveal safety gaps. 

Not ready to go mobile yet? Here’s a paper template you can edit and use in the meantime:

Incident Report Template

Raising and Resolving Hazards

Many incidents and near misses will involve hazards that could cause immediate or future harm to your employees if not resolved. From tagging and removing damaged equipment from service to safely dismantling corrupted structures, your incident reporting process is not truly complete until you resolve the danger. 

To keep things straightforward, include hazard descriptions and actions on your incident reports. With Safesite, you can create hazards from within an incident report by tapping Add Root Cause Hazard. Then, you’ll be able to alert your team of the hazard in real-time and assign it to someone for resolution. And you can do it without deviating from your incident report.

Hazard Resolution

Tip: Want to streamline hazard management without missing a beat? Check out our guide to faster hazard recognition and resolution .

Go Forth and Report

When writing incident reports, be objective about the details. Your main goal is improving workplace safety, not pointing fingers at who is responsible. The incident report samples provided show that by staying true to the facts, you encourage employee participation in your investigations.

Digital reporting automates part of the process, saving you time and reducing human error. Improve your incident reporting process by using a digital reporting tool, like Safesite , that integrates alerts and hazard resolution in a single place.

By Team Safesite

We're a group of safety and tech professionals united in our desire to make every workplace safer. We keep a pulse on the latest regulations, standards, and industry trends in safety and write about them here on our blog.

This article covers:

Related blog posts, why employee engagement is the key to unlocking safety program performance, everything you need to know before changing your safety software, safesite’s step-by-step guide to safety program digitization.

Incident Report Guide: All You Need To Know

how to write a professional incident report

Published 2 Mar 2023

What is an Incident Report?

An incident report is a tool that documents any event that may or may not have caused injuries to a person or damage to a company asset. It is used to capture injuries and accidents, near misses, property and equipment damage, health and safety issues, security breaches and misconducts in the worksite.

The purpose of incident reporting is to record an incident, determine its possible cause, document any actions taken, and make it known to stakeholders. An incident report can be used in the investigation and analysis of an event . It includes the root cause and corrective actions to eliminate the risks involved and prevent similar future occurrences. Incident reports can also be used as safety documents that indicate potential risks and uncontrolled hazards found on the work site for future assessments (e.g., ergonomic assessments ).

An incident report can be used by:

Incident reporting is the process of documenting all worksite injuries, near misses, and accidents. An incident report should be completed at the time an incident occurs no matter how minor an injury is. This article covers an in-depth explanation of the incident reporting procedure and the types of events you should report.

Incident reporting has already been an established idea that is initially intended to promote and improve safety in the worksite. However, most of the workers still do not comply with this protocol. The management and their workers should know why incident reporting can not only improve an organization’s safety but also help the business to stand out from others and most importantly, can help create a sound and healthy working environment and culture for workers.

#1 Immediate Reinforcement of Actions

In the event when an incident happened at work, documenting and reporting the details to the management can induce immediate and necessary measures to be taken (e.g., providing first aid ). By doing this, worse situations and occurrences can be prevented. This also heightens the seriousness and gravity of any incident reminding all workers that these events should be reported whether big or small. Furthermore, taking action immediately also helps leaders and managers to magnify their responsibilities in ensuring a safer place for their workers.

#2 Hazards and Threats Communication and Awareness

Communicating threats, risks, and hazards to all concerned and affected workers in an organization help raise awareness of possible dangers that may come. Doing so will help leaders and supervisors to ensure preventive measures are in place in case things should go wrong. This could be an essential tool for industries in which tasks are associated with the highest risks such as the construction, manufacturing, mining industries, and even offices which are prone to accidents because of the potential hazards that can be overlooked. More so, getting to understand these hazards can enforce everyone to be more proactive in spotting these threats and resolve them immediately.

Possible threats could be:

#3 Continuous Improvement of Processes

An incident report provides a clear picture of what an organization should focus on resolving.  It also gives valuable insights into what processes need to be changed, improved, or eliminated. This also helps the management to implement new policies and regulations to be able to determine the efficacy of these changes to safety and quality. This could also mean critical assessments of whether the workers would need more skills training or better equipment provision.

Incident report training is a series of practical lessons to help employees develop skills for proper incident reporting. Adequate training can empower workers to report and respond to all incidents immediately, aiding in their quick resolution and subsequent investigation. Typical incident reporting training includes what is considered a reportable event , how to create a good incident report , and what details need to be documented .

For example, this free accident and incident investigation course contains:

These two terms are often perceived as of the same kind. However, the main difference falls on the one who completes it. Obviously, a police report is a detailed documentation of a crime written by an officer or any representative of a police department who was present at the crime scene. On the other hand, an incident report can be written by anyone, as mentioned above, who wants to report any events that might or might not have caused harm to someone or something. Police reports require an investigation to follow, while an incident report can be used as a supporting document to an investigation or analysis of events.

Generally, an incident is defined as any event, condition, or situation which:

The rule of thumb is that as soon as an incident occurs, an incident report should be completed. Minor injuries should be reported and taken as equally important as major injuries are. These injuries may get worse and lead to more serious injuries or health issues. Employers, managers, and safety officials should be aware of the different situations and events that should be reported.

Here are 4 types of incidents you should report:

An incident report should state all the essential information about the accident or near-miss. It should contain the following key elements to ensure that all facts and necessary details are complete and properly documented. Take a look at some incident report examples here .

An incident report should be:

All data must be clear and specific. Most inaccuracies are due to typos and simple grammar and spelling errors (e.g. incorrect details of names of people involved, date and time of the incident, contact numbers, etc.). Provide more specific details of what you are referring to and avoid any vague statements that may cause confusion. Lastly, always proofread your report before submission to see errors that you might have overlooked.

An incident report should be objective and supported by facts. Avoid including emotional, opinionated, and biased statements in the incident report. It should provide both sides of the story and should not favor one side. However, if there’s a need to include statements from witnesses or patients, make sure to quote them.

Ensure that all essential questions (what, where, when, why, and how) are covered in the incident report. Record not only the people who were injured and what caused the accident to happen, but also include details such as people who witnessed and reported the incident or those who will conduct an investigation. Anticipate what other significant details will be needed for any future study and investigation.

Photos, diagrams, and illustrations should be included as supporting evidence. Take many photos of the injury, damage, and surrounding environment. This supplements the facts stated and provides more clarity to be easily understood by the recipient.

Upon completion, those who are involved in the incident (e.g. victim, witnesses, manager, reporter, etc.) should sign off to testify and validate all the information that was mentioned in the incident report. This confirms that the incident report is truthful and unquestionable.

Keeping your incident report factual would require you to know the different types of information that you can gather during the incident reporting process. Here’s a list of facts that would guide you during the documentation of an incident:

The layout of information in an incident report form may vary depending on a number of factors. As a general rule, you should write incident reports in the third person since its purpose is to be objective; stating only facts and avoiding the inclusion of opinions and biases. Below is an example incident reporting format you can use for your operations. It contains all the essential information you would need to include in order to complete an effective incident report:

Create Your Own Incident Report Checklist

Eliminate manual tasks and streamline your operations.

Now that we have an idea of what information should be included in an incident report, here’s a sample walkthrough through an incident report PDF sample that we prepared to give you a clearer picture of how you can create an effective incident report.

Step 1: Provide Fundamental Information

Following the outline of an incident report form, the first thing you would want to collect are the fundamental information. You can do this by answering the following questions:

Using the scenario above, the first section of your report would begin to look something like this:

Incident Report Sample - Step 1

Incident Report Sample fig. 1

In our incident report example, we took advantage of adding photo evidence to better illustrate the environment where the incident took place. Notice that the photo attached had an annotation. Annotating gives the reader(s) of your report a clearer idea of what to look at. It is helpful in cases where the area of the incident is wide and contains a lot of elements.

Step 2: Take Note of Any Damages and Injuries

The next thing you would want to do is to determine the results of the said incident. Did it cause any damage or injure anyone? If so, you should describe it in detail and if appropriate, provide photo evidence of the damage.

Continuing with the scenario, it was determined that the incident caused injury to one of the employees. According to the company’s physician, the injury obtained might only be muscle bruising. However, under the physician’s orders, the injured employee underwent other medical tests to determine other possible injuries. Using this information, you can then include it in the report like this:

Incident Report Sample - Step 2

Incident Report Sample fig. 2

Step 3: Identify Affected Individual(s)

Provide the names of the people involved along with their job details such as title, shift arrangement, and other relevant information. Using the same example, the individual who obtained the injury, Samuel, is taken note of along with his job details in the incident report.

Incident Report Sample - Step 3

Incident Report Sample fig. 3

Step 4: Identify Witnesses and Take Their Statements

Record the names of people present during the incident and gather their statements. These will be valuable in understanding the sequence of events that led to the incident and may even provide you a better insight into whether or not the behavior of the affected employees was a factor that contributed to the injury or damage. Witnesses’ statements can be noted verbatim or paraphrased. Remember to have the witnesses sign off on their statements to verify the accuracy of what has been recorded.

Continuing with the given scenario, it was determined that another employee was with Samuel when the incident occurred. His name and statement are included in the report and he is asked to sign off to attest that everything he said wasn’t hearsay.

Incident Report Sample - Step 4

Incident Report Sample fig. 4

Step 5: Take Action

This refers to the actions that should be taken after the incident. It includes corrective actions that will eliminate recurrence of the incident. The corrective actions section of your incident report can also include the actions that you need to take in order to complete the report.

For example, in the scenario, in Bradley’s statement (the witness), it was discovered that the incident may have occurred due to Samuel’s (the injured employee) failure to perform a pre-start inspection of the forklift before operation. To verify this, you may assign members of your organization to check security footage and maintenance records of the forklift used. With that, the report would look something like this:

Incident Report Sample - Step 5

Incident Report Sample fig. 5

Step 6: Close Your Report

Upon completion of the previous sections, you may collect management’s comments on the incident. For accountability measures, you, as the reporter, and someone from upper management should sign off. This will validate that the information stated in the incident report is truthful and unquestionable.

Following the same sample scenario, the incident report will then look like this:

Incident Report Sample - Step 6

Incident Report Sample fig. 6

The sample incident report below is still based on the walkthrough sample above but in the form of a letter:

April 16th, 2021

Worksite Compound 1-A 939 Putty Road, Blaxlands Ridge NSW 2758, Australia

Hi, I am writing a report detailing the forklift incident that happened on the 15th of April, at 6 P.M. Samuel Jeffries, one of the forklift operators was moving crate packaging when the forklift malfunctioned and bumped towards the other crates. According to the company’s physician, he obtained a muscle bruise from the impact caused by the forklift bumping into the crates. An x-ray was also requested to check for underlying injury.

Upon further investigation and based on a note from one of the other employees that witnessed the incident, this might be a case of not performing a preliminary inspection of the forklift which lead to affected employee not being able to recognize that the forklift was not functioning properly.

This is taken into consideration and as a preventive measure, employees will be mandated to perform regular maintenance checks on equipment and machinery, put an out of order sign for those in need of maintenance or replacement. Also, have forklift operators perform a pre-start checklist to ensure that it is in good working condition.

Further details will be submitted if there’s additional information acquired regarding this incident.

James Charleson, Reporting Staff

See this incident report PDF sample for a comprehensive guide.

The incident report should be submitted to an investigation team to further study and look for deeper causes. An investigation should be conducted by those who are competent in collecting and analyzing information and evidence gathered from the incident report. Those conducting the investigation should be knowledgeable in occupational health and safety fundamentals.

The purpose of investigating an incident is not to find fault but to determine the root cause and develop corrective actions to prevent similar incidents from happening. An investigation also helps fulfill regulatory requirements such as OSHA 300 Forms in the United States and Reporting of Injuries, Diseases, and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations 2013 ( RIDDOR ) in the UK and determines the costs involved with property or equipment damage (if any).

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Incident reports should be properly kept as they are an important record of every organization. Creating incident reports can be time-consuming and requires rigorous documentation of the incident. However, understanding the purpose of incident reporting will help the organization determine the root cause of an incident and set corrective measures to eliminate potential risks. SafetyCulture (formerly iAuditor) is the world’s #1 inspection app and can be used to streamline the completion and record-keeping of incident reports. With the SafetyCulture mobile app and web platform you can:

Get started with SafetyCulture by downloading these top 10 incident report templates you can download and customize for free.

SafetyCulture gives you the flexibility to power any inspection you require – onsite, underground, and across the globe. Inspect construction sites, restaurants inspections for food safety, conduct temperature checks, pre-flight checks, toolbox talks and more. It is the mobile forms inspection solution for all industries.

Incident Report Checklist

SafetyCulture is the world’s #1 cloud-based inspection app used to convert paper forms to digital checklists. Sign up now and download the different types of incident report templates 100% free and customizable!


SafetyCulture Content Specialist

Jona Tarlengco

Jona Tarlengco is a content writer and researcher for SafetyCulture since 2018. She usually writes about safety and quality topics, contributing to the creation of well-researched articles. Her 5-year experience in one of the world’s leading business news organisations helps enrich the quality of the information in her work.

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How to Write a Workplace Incident Report (+ Templates)

How to Write a Workplace Incident Report (+ Templates)

Written by: Hailey Hudson

how to write a professional incident report

From simple falls to hazardous energy to machinery malfunctions, workplace incidents are more common than you might think. In some cases, consequences might be simple, such as a break in productivity. But other times, incidents could have outcomes that are as severe as death.

If an incident occurs in your workplace, it’s your responsibility to write up a workplace incident report that documents the issue. Incident reports are important because they allow company leadership to take corrective action and ensure all employees are safe and efficient moving forward.

You can use an incident report template from Visme to create a professional, branded report that includes the need-to-know information and makes it easy for incident witnesses to file the document. Let’s jump into why incident reports are so important and how to write your own.

Table of Contents

What is an incident report.

How to Write a Workplace Incident Report in 4 Steps

10 incident report templates you can download now.

An incident report is a document that explains the details involved in a workplace incident, which is defined as any unexpected event that results in property damage or minor injury. Examples of workplace incidents include:

Incident reports include all of the facts related to the incident, such as the contact information of the people involved; a description of the incident itself; and any follow-up actions that were taken, like medical treatment. These reports are important because they help create a safer workplace where all employees will be better protected.

Any employee that witnesses an incident can file a report. The incident needs to be reported as soon as possible — ideally, within less than 24 hours.

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how to write a professional incident report

3 Benefits of Incident Reporting in a Workplace

There are several advantages of creating incident reports in your workplace:

1. Provides Necessary Consequences

In some cases, an incident may require consequences to an employee who engaged in inappropriate behavior. Incident reports help managers know what kind of corrective action they may need to take. These consequences can also help prevent future accidents.

2. Creates Hazard Awareness

Another big benefit of incident reporting: it keeps other employees safe by communicating potential dangers or problems. When an incident report is filed, company managers will be able to pinpoint and straighten out any potential safety issues.

This includes things like machinery that isn’t working, or safety equipment that is lacking. Incident reports help all employees be more aware of possible dangers around them and how to stay safe.

3. Helps Analyze Processes

When a workplace incident is reported, company leadership will be able to analyze the incident, thinking critically about what went wrong and why. From there, you’ll be able to define the next steps necessary to move forward with everyone’s safety in line.

Incident reports also provide insight into what processes could be tweaked or removed to maximize efficiency . The bottom line: Incident reporting helps improve a workplace in multiple important ways.

Looking for an easy way to design a workplace incident report? You can use the Visme creator to make an incident report by either starting from scratch with a completely unique design, or working off of a predefined incident report template that can be customized.

Either way, here’s what you’ll need to do.

1. Gather the Information

As soon as an incident happens, take action to start filing a report. Once the situation is stable and employees are no longer in danger, get all of the information you’ll need. This will include:

Customize this detailed incident report using Visme’s software, adding additional information or editing what’s there so the incident report better fits your needs.

how to write a professional incident report

2. Structure and Organize The Report

Divide up the information you’ve gathered into categories that make sense. Then structure the information in a format that works well visually . Sectioning off different categories into boxes is a good way to do this, making it easy to understand the form at a glance.

Our Visme document creator allows you to drag-and-drop boxes wherever you want to create a structure that’s easy to follow. If you’re using an existing template, just click a box and then drag it around or delete it entirely. You can also add shapes, diagrams or completely change the layout of the form.

how to write a professional incident report

3. Include Your Branding

Your incident report form is a business document, so it should be branded just like all of your other business documents. Add your brand colors in the header, footer, and sidebars, and include your logo somewhere on the report.

This branding should include fonts, too, including header fonts and body fonts. It’s best to type the details of an incident report instead of writing by hand so that the report is easy to read and easy to digitally send.

This red-and-black template could be tweaked, keeping the same general structure of the form but adding in colors that work with your brand.

how to write a professional incident report

4. Create a Template

Save your finished incident report and keep it on hand for future use. You know incidents are going to happen — so it’s best to be prepared with an incident report that’s ready to go. A little time investment now to make a template that’s comprehensive, branded and visually attractive will pay off later when you don’t have to scramble.

A good incident report template will be usable for any type of incident. It should be easy to follow for any employee who witnesses or is part of an incident. If you feel that it’s necessary, you can add a line to each section explaining what to write in that box.

how to write a professional incident report

Get started with your workplace incident report by using one of our templates. Created by professional designers, these premium templates are available for anyone with a Visme account.

Each workplace incident report template can be opened in the Visme editor for quick drag-and-drop customization. Let's take a look at our favorite ones below.

1. Medical Incident Report

how to write a professional incident report

Perfect for anyone in the medical or healthcare industry , our medical incident report contains space for all of the relevant information you need to know: patient information, the concerned physician, patient medical history, current injury symptoms, observation and any medical exams or medications administered.

2. Security Incident Report

how to write a professional incident report

Stay on top of security with this cybersecurity incident report. This customizable report covers information including the details of the incident, the systems or data affected and whether assistance is needed from information security. With cyberattacks running rampant , it’s good to be prepared in case your business is targeted.

3. Standard Incident Report

Standard Incident Report

Stick to the basics with this no-frills, minimalist incident report. Two simple sections include space for incident information and incident description. This form is a great grab-and-go option if you’re short on time and looking for a predefined report that doesn’t require extra work from your end.

4. Tech Company Incident Report

Incident Report

This five-page incident report ensures you’ll be able to give a comprehensive overview of the situation. After a cover page and table of contents, you’ll find an Incident Description page where you can add the incident details. Next comes Solution Details — fill in how the problem was solved. Finally, if needed you can add a third page explaining the Test Run Results, or what happened when you first gave the solution a go.

5. Detailed Incident Report

Detailed Incident Report

If a more complex incident occurred, this detailed incident report may be a good fit to help explain the information. The form is broken down into three primary categories: information about the person being reported, incident description and the cause of the incident. There’s also space to add analytical evaluation and further recommendations.

6. Statement Incident Report

Statement Incident Report

The Statement Incident Report template is brief, but includes all of the necessary information that an incident report needs. Start with the details of the person reporting the incident; then move on to a short description of the event. Finally, add statements from the individuals or parties involved.

7. Employee Incident Report

Employee Incident Report

This report template breaks down an incident based on what actions have already been taken and what else needs to be done. Use the Visme creator to edit the template and add your own branding. Then download as a PDF or share online.

8. Finance Company Incident Report

Finance Company Incident Report

If you’re a finance company, this sleek tan-and-gray incident report template is for you. This document has space for contact details, a description of the incident (including its causes and whether police were notified) and who reported the event.

9. Workplace Incident Report

Workplace Incident Report

Tweak the colors and fonts to make this workplace incident report your own. Four simple sections are included against a white background: Add the relevant employee information, incident information, reporter information and tick off whether the police were notified.

10. Factory Incident Report

how to write a professional incident report

Incidents commonly occur in workplaces like factories where employees are working with machinery. Keep a copy of this factory incident report on hand in case it’s needed. This two-page report spans everything you need to know, with sections marked off in boxes to help with readability.

Create Your Own Incident Report

Use Visme’s online document creator to make your own incident report in minutes, working from one of our incident report templates or creating your own. Our live data integration allows you to connect charts to live data such as Google Sheets.

For example, if you want to track the number of incidents at your company or other information that might change regularly, you can have this data automatically updated from an external source. You can also utilize 3D graphics and gestures to improve visual cues for incidents.

And you aren’t limited to just incident reports — Visme can be used to create any kind of worksheet , report or document used in your workplace. Keep your employees and teammates safe by properly filing workplace incident reports whenever needed.

Create a professional incident report for your workplace.

how to write a professional incident report

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how to write a professional incident report

About the Author

Hailey Hudson is a full-time freelance writer and content marketer based out of Atlanta, Georgia, where her cat acts as coworker and supervisor. Hailey writes for clients like the BEE email editor, Kicksta, LYFE Marketing, and anyone else who will let her nerd out about digital marketing.

how to write a professional incident report

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Writing Incident Reports

Stacey Corbitt

Chapter Overview

Without exception and across the globe, every workplace in your professional career is likely to apply considerable value to safety, health, and security of the business and all of its assets. In the United States, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (“OSHA”) is the regulating and enforcement entity whose mission is “to ensure safe and healthful working conditions for working men and women by setting and enforcing standards and by providing training, outreach, education and assistance” ( https://www.osha.gov/aboutosha , n.d.). The importance of record keeping in the areas of safety and health cannot be overstated; and all employees are responsible for some level of preparing safety documentation. This chapter aims to provide you with tools for success in writing a workplace-specific genre: the incident report .

Think about your own experiences, at work or in another capacity. What training have you completed related to safety, security, or health? Why do you think the organization provided the training? How did you benefit from being trained? How did the organization benefit? Be prepared to discuss your experience in class.

Preparing to write an incident report

Employers often include training on their company safety program as part of new employee orientation: as a result, as you begin or continue your professional career, you will become familiar with your company’s requirements and your responsibilities for documentation of accidents and other reportable incidents. This section provides information about typical company procedures you may encounter.

Before anything happens

Information collection procedures should be provided in the workplace safety and health plan handbook or other document, and may be accompanied by one or more forms designed to capture all initial information about the incident. Always be familiar with the incident reporting procedures required by your employer so you are prepared to address your responsibility in clear, complete, concise, and correct documentation.

After something happens

First, in the event you are involved in or witness an accident or other event that is outside the normal and expected course of business while in the workplace, be prepared to collect and recall detailed information according to a plan specified by your employer. It may be critical to make observations, ask questions, write information down, make sketches, and take photographs as soon as safely possible following any emergency procedures. Familiarity with the employer’s safety protocols ensures you can minimize further risk to individuals and to the company.

Collecting important data

Perhaps your career will provide opportunities for you to conduct in-depth investigations for your employer, and you may prepare lengthy, detailed investigation reports addressing things like root causes and policy changes. Regardless of his or her position within the company, however, each employee has a responsibility to work safely and to report incidents or unsafe conditions. As noted above, many times the latter level of reporting amounts to completing one or more specialized forms similar to the one provided in Figure 1 below. Review the example form and be prepared to discuss it with your peers in class.

how to write a professional incident report

Figure 1. Partial initial incident report information collection form (Sandvick, 2020)

The facts about an incident are collected in the form shown in Figure 1 using reporters’ questions: that is, those questions that elicit what , where , when , who , how , and why information. Additionally, certain incident types require visual media representation of details. Working with a classmate, discuss a parking lot collision or other incident involving at least one driver and vehicle. Besides answering the questions provided in Figure 1, what other kinds of visual information could you collect and provide to help readers understand the incident?

In the event your organization does not have a readily-available data collection form to use, the reporters’ questions may provide sufficient guidance for you to collect incident details. In any case, the two important goals to meet in preparing to write an incident report are as follows:

Organizing and drafting an internal incident report

Your organization’s policies and procedures, together with your position, will determine the next steps you should take in the incident reporting process. As an intern or junior-level professional, your responsibility may end with completion and submission of the reporting form(s). If you have management or executive authority, you are more likely to be tasked with writing a complete narrative incident report. Finally, if you have primary responsibility for health, safety, and/or security within your workplace – perhaps you are a safety coordinator – you may need to collect the initial witness report forms; conduct complete investigations; prepare one or more formal narrative reports; make training or disciplinary decisions; recommend policy changes; and prepare official reports for state and federal authorities.

Understand that the specific requirements of your employer may be unique to your business and to the type of workplace incident being reported. Table 1 below contains questions you must answer in the drafting process: discuss the scope of and reasons for those questions.

Table 1. Considerations for organizing and drafting your report

A word about preparing external incident reports

As noted in the introduction, OSHA may have regulatory authority over your employer. In that event, you may be required to report the details of a workplace accident or other incident according to the specifications of OSHA and in a format they prescribe. As you review Figure 2, notice the information required by the report form. How does it compare to the information provided in a typical internal incident report as represented in the previous section of this chapter? What can you tell about OSHA’s priorities from its reporting form?

Figure 2. Online incident report form required by OSHA for some incidents (2004)

Finalizing internal incident reports

Organizing your effort, taking stock of your progress through the reporting process and reorganizing your information is a constant in incident reporting. At this point, you should be able to check off the following steps:

Draft your report using the format prescribed by your employer or, if no specifics are given, use a standard business memorandum format. Keep in mind both the intended audience and the potential readers as you write; and remember that your purpose is to objectively report the facts and details of the incident in a clear, concise, complete, correct, and usable document.

Chapter conclusion

Incident reports are a workplace-specific genre of writing that generally appear in report memo format. Like all forms of technical writing, incident reports succeed when they are clear, complete, concise, and correct. This genre is frequently written for one audience who then may disseminate it to a much broader audience. The challenges of incident reporting include careful organizing, integrating graphics, and especially reporting facts and observations objectively and completely without addressing the author’s opinions or judgments. Just (all) the facts, please.

Activity: A case study

Read and discuss the following scenario with your classmates as directed by your instructor.

Safety First

Carolyn has 3 semesters left to complete her bachelor’s degree in environmental engineering. Last summer, she was hired as a field sampling technician for a growing environmental engineering firm. Her employer specializes in groundwater remediation.

Carolyn’s training in the first week of her internship included the following topics:

Protocols for reporting accidents and near misses

Carolyn also learned from the junior-level project engineers who trained her that interns and new hires typically are expected to do most of the paperwork.

On Wednesday of the second week of her internship, Carolyn had an opportunity to test her skills at collecting and reporting information about an accident involving damage to company property. Joey, a project engineer who oversaw Carolyn’s training on the sampling process, was driving a company pickup from the office to the field worksite.

Joey backed the truck out of the parking spot and collided with a cement barrier. The collision broke the taillight cover on the truck’s passenger side and dented the bumper. There was also damage to the paint on the truck’s tailgate.

Answer the questions and be prepared to discuss your answers in class.

Refer to Figure 3 below as you complete the homework.

Figure 3. Example of an employer’s instructions

Instructions for Employees:  Making an Initial Property Damage Incident Report

Report as soon as possible within 4 hours of the incident via email addressed to [email protected]

Developmental writing assignment

Work together with a partner to agree on the details of the incident to be reported. You will need to make decisions about any details not provided in the scenario but required by the reporting instructions: for example, you will need to decide on a date and time of day for the incident. What other assumptions do you make?

Why do you think the instructions require a report within 4 hours and submitted via email ?

Technical writing document creation assignment

Write and submit the employer-required incident report email for the accident identified in the Activity section above.

“How to write an incident report” by Clinton M. Sandvick (2020). Provided by: wikiHow. License: CC BY-NC-SA 3.0 .   https://www.wikihow.com/Write-an-Incident-Report .

Department of Labor, Occupational Safety and Health Administration (2004). OSHA forms for recording work-related injuries and illnesses. Retrieved from OSHA.gov website: https://www.osha.gov/recordkeeping/RKforms.html

Mindful Technical Writing by Stacey Corbitt is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License , except where otherwise noted.

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  1. Documenting & Reporting Lecture

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    WRITING EFFECTIVE INCIDENT REPORTS. After reviewing this Incident Report information, you should be able to: 1. Recognize when you must complete an Incident