What Every Business Owner Should Know About Workplace Incident Reporting & Investigations

Workplace accidents happen. But knowing what to do in the immediate aftermath and planning out the appropriate procedures, including incident reporting and investigation, will minimize risks in the long-term and help reduce costs for your business in the short-term. Workplace incidents are almost always preventable – it’s just a matter of knowing how.

Why Should You Investigate Workplace Incidents?

Workplace incident investigations involve a process to determine the root cause(s) of an event to prevent them from occurring again. They are NOT an attempt to assign blame, but rather to protect a business from future liability. Incidents should be immediately reported to your insurance company; upon report, investigations should begin within 24 hours. The reason for this is that the scene is (hopefully) still undisturbed so accurate evidence can be gathered and preserved more easily, and witness testimonies will be more vivid.

How To Investigate A Workplace Incident

There are a few things that you should know before investigating after an incident. These tips will put you in the right frame of mind, so you can find the information you need to get right down to the root causes.

  • You are NOT looking to blame anyone, you are looking for facts.
  • Management should be involved in investigations.
  • Show sympathy and empathize with the affected or injured person, but do not apologize and do not admit fault – at least until a thorough investigation is complete. This could open you to legal liabilities.
  • When interviewing witnesses, do it privately so as not to skew their memories.
  • “Near misses” should also be thoroughly investigated and followed up by corrective action. If someone ALMOST gets hurt, it is just luck and circumstance. Next time might not be so lucky.

So, the first thing you want to do after a workplace incident is to control the scene and block off the affected area. This is so nobody else is put at risk and so you can gather untainted evidence. Be sure to take detailed notes, pictures and even video of the area and the key components that may have caused the incident: faulty machinery, puddles on the ground, other hazards, etc. Bring out your inner paparazzo – the more pictures and video you have, from different angles, close-ups and wide shots, views of the surroundings, the better.

Note the conditions of the area as well. If the incident took place outdoors, is it raining? Is it winter and is ice covering the sidewalks? All of this is important for future corrective actions.

Be sure to review security tapes (if possible) and interview bystanders immediately while the facts are still fresh in their minds. Ask them what they saw. Be sure to do this in private, so you can more easily establish the facts without their memories being influenced by hearsay. If each person independently tells you the same story, you know you’re onto something. Be sure not to offer them details, but rather ask them their perspective to more easily put together the objective facts later.

Ask them questions like, “what did you see?” instead of, “did you see ______?” because the latter question is feeding them details and skewing their perceptions.

Analyzing The Evidence

Just as a curious child keeps asking “why,” you need to question why and be willing to go down the rabbit hole to effectively analyze evidence and incidents.

Example: a person slips on water on the floor and hurts themselves.

Why? The water came from the ice machine.

Why? Ice was spilled.

Why? The tote that was being used to carry the ice was overfilled.

Why? So employees wouldn’t have to make so many trips.

And so on and so forth until all the causes of the incident are eventually revealed, helping you to take more accurate corrective actions.

Take Corrective Action

Once the causes of the incident are determined, it’s time to take corrective action. This can include, but is not limited to:

  • Building or equipment repairs
  • Developing new employee training
  • Procedural or managerial changes

When developing a course of action, delegate responsibilities and set a deadline for those tasks to be completed. Set calendar reminders for those completion dates and be sure to check in afterward to ensure they’ve been done.

Workplace incidents should not be accepted as a “cost of doing business.” They very rarely happen for no reason, and not taking the time to properly investigate and take corrective action will do nothing but hurt your business’ profitability.

Penalties For Failure To Report A Workplace Accident

Believe it or not, failing to report an injury will do nothing but hurt your business in the long run. An employer that intentionally fails to report an injury may be fined a minimum of $30,000 or 200% of the compensation already owed.

This also applies to delayed reporting. By law, an employee must be compensated for lost wages within 14 days of their last day of work. A fine of 10% of the owed worker’s wages is tacked onto those costs if reporting the injury is delayed – and the employer may be responsible for this penalty.

How To Report Workplace Incidents

It is critical that claims are reported immediately, so investigations can begin right away while memories and evidence are fresh. Prompt reporting also provides an opportunity for claims professionals to offer suggestions that may help reduce your loss. Read more about the importance of claims reporting here.

  • Property, auto or liability incidents:

Read “Tips for Reporting Insurance Claims.”

View our risk management library to strengthen your loss prevention efforts for your business and contact a local Society agent near you to discuss insurance coverage options.


As a mutual insurance company, we operate and exist for the benefit of our policyholders. For more than 100 years, Society has been helping businesses overcome the unexpected with comprehensive coverage packages and outstanding claims handling, underwriting and risk management.

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