FAQ - Workplace accidents: recording and reporting

In the first article of a two-part series, we field some frequently asked questions on how to record and report accidents in the workplace. 

What accidents should be reported to HSE? What processes should companies have in place for reporting accidents? And are there any technologies or apps that can streamline reporting? 

There’s more to recording and reporting workplace incidents than having an ‘accident book’ in the cupboard. This guide addresses these and more commonly asked questions on how to go about recording and reporting accidents.

#1 - Is it a legal requirement to report accidents at work?

RIDDOR (which stands for Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations) is the law that requires employers to report work-related accidents, diagnosed cases of certain industrial diseases and ‘dangerous occurrences’ (incidents with the potential to cause harm). 

#2 - What accidents need to be reported to HSE? 

Not all accidents need to be reported – only those that are work-related and result in a ‘reportable’ injury or death. When deciding if an accident is work-related, consider whether the accident was related to: the way the work was organised, carried out or supervised; any machinery, plant, substances or equipment used for work; or the condition of the site or premises. If none of these circumstances applies, it is likely that a report will not be required. Nor is there any need to report incidents where people are taken to hospital purely as a precaution when no injury is apparent.

As well as accidents, employers must report diagnoses of certain occupational diseases, such as occupational asthma, carpal tunnel syndrome and tendonitis, where these are likely to have been caused or exacerbated by workplace activities. 

#3 - What accidents don’t need to be reported?

RIDDOR reports are only necessary for reportable workplace-related accidents – you don’t need to inform authorities of every accident. For example, there is no need to report a road traffic accident unless it involves the loading or unloading of a vehicle, construction or maintenance work or the escape of a substance being transported by the vehicle.

#4 - How do I report an accident to the HSE? 

The nominated responsible person within your business should go to www.hse.gov.uk/riddor and complete the appropriate online report form. The form will then be submitted directly to the RIDDOR database. All staff and contractors must know the internal procedure within your workplace for reporting an incident. You could have specific form employees need to complete or an internal phone line operated by someone who will record the details.

#5 - Are employers legally obliged to record and report near misses? 

A near miss is defined by the HSE as ‘an event that, while not causing harm, has the potential to cause injury or ill health’. Near misses classed as ‘dangerous occurrences' must be reported to the HSE under RIDDOR. There are 27 categories of dangerous occurrences that are relevant to most workplaces. Examples include: the collapse, overturning or failure of load-bearing parts of lifts and lifting equipment; equipment coming into contact with overhead power lines and explosions or fires causing work to be stopped for more than 24 hours.

In addition, although this is not a legal requirement, businesses are encouraged to record and investigate ‘non-reportable’ near misses internally. Lessons can be learnt from such events, and there is the potential to prevent costly accidents in similar circumstances. The HSE estimates that, on average, there are 90 near misses for every injury. If that one injury is avoided, it makes reporting those 90 near misses worthwhile.

#6 - How should near-misses be reported?

All staff should understand that they need to report a near miss just as they would an actual accident, and senior management must make the reporting procedures clear. 

Reports should contain the following information: when and where the incident took place; the type of incident, e.g. slip, fall or collision; a description of what happened; the work activities taking place before the incident; details of the person or people involved. 

One of the problems with near misses is that they often go unreported. Therefore, it is important to foster a culture where employees feel comfortable reporting near misses and where these are treated as a learning experience without negative consequences. To make it easy for employees to submit near misses and ensure good data, consider allowing reports to be turned in anonymously.

#7 - What records do I need to keep?

By law, you must record all accidents that are reportable under RIDDOR, as well as any accidents that result in an employee not being able to work for three days or more. 

However, it is advisable to record all accidents and near misses, not least because this helps you to spot trends. You can then implement changes to minimise the risk of recurrence.  

Businesses with more than ten employees are required by law to maintain an accident book. The records entered will be enough to satisfy HSE, local authority or ORR (Office of Rail and Road) inspectors.

#8 - Is it time to ditch the paper accident book?

An accident book can be in paper or electronic form. With an unprecedented number of employees working remotely, now might be the time to look at switching to an electronic format. 

Electronic reporting might also make more sense for organisations whose staff are mobile or spread across different locations. However, before ditching the paper report forms, you’ll need to be sure that your electronic option is just as accessible to staff. Therefore, you should consider whether every staff member has ready access to your computer system. If not, as might be the case with factory workers, an app-based system might make it easier for employees to report incidents. Secondly, employers are required to keep completed reports for at least three years, so if you use an electronic format, make sure that you make regular back-ups and store them safely.

In part 2 of our series, we will examine how to use the learnings from accidents and incidents to avoid future occurrences. 
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