8.1 Incident and Inspection Reports

Incident and inspection reports are used routinely in technical workplaces to respond to occurrences or report observations that may have an impact on decision-making. More specifically, incident reports are used to report on unusual occurrences or events, such as accidents, thefts, broken or malfunctioning equipment, and human resources issues. Inspection reports, on the other hand, are used to report on observations, such as site conditions, installations, and the like.

 

Accident and Incident Reports

What are accident and incident reports? An accident or incident report documents an injury, accident, work stoppage, equipment failure, worker illness, or personal problem.

You might write an accident/incident report for any of the following situations:

  • someone was injured at work
  • machinery or other equipment malfunctioned or broke
  • work stopped for a significant period of time
  • an employee complained of harassment, violence, or bullying
  • an employee came to work intoxicated

Why are these reports important? Accident and incident reports can be used in insurance claims, workers’ compensation awards, and even lawsuits. When writing such reports, it is important to document events accurately to avoid attributing blame or identifying causes incorrectly. The stakes are high when writing these reports, so it is important to follow the instructions provided in this unit carefully.

 

Figure 8.1.1 three reasons incident reports are important. “Why Reporting Incidents at Work Matters” by SafetyCulture.com, 2019, SBC Magazine, https://sbcmag.info/news/2019/may/why-reporting-all-incidents-matters

What goes in an accident/incident report? Accident/incident reports document the who, what, where, when, and how of occurrences. They sometimes also identify why something may have occurred when it is possible. Key components of accident/incident reports are the corrective and preventive actions sections. The corrective actions section describes actions that have been taken to restore the situation; the preventive actions section would include suggestions to prevent the occurrence from happening again.

How do I format an accident/incident report? In many companies, accident/incident reports are completed using a prepared form. The form would ask much of the information listed in the below “Checklist for Accident/Incident Reports.” If the company you work for does not have a form, you can either create a form and use it as a template for such reporting in the future, or you can document the incident in an incident report–usually formatted as a short memo report.

Figure 8.1.2 information layout with description for incident reports (Ewald, 2017).

Checklist for Accident/Incident Reports – Include key details about the incident in your report. Such detail should include the following:

  • Date of the event
  • Location
  • Full names of the people involved
  • Names of witnesses
  • Events leading up to the accident
  • Environmental conditions if applicable (slippery floors, poor lighting, hazardous materials, etc.)
  • Description of the task that was being performed at the time of the incident/accident
  • Detailed description of the event
  • Parts of body injured (if an injury occurred) and/or parts of equipment damaged
  • Description of employee’s response immediately after the event (grabbing injured arm, running from room, etc.)
  • Extent of damage
  • Treatment of injury or course of action taken

Some employers ask for an analysis of why the event took place and a recommendation for future prevention.

 

Figure 8.1.3 an explanation of the four types of incident reports. “A Guide to Incident Reports in the Workplace”, by J. Griffiths, 2021, Vatix, https://vatix.com/blog/incident-reporting/

Who is the audience of accident/incident reports? Since these reports have legal ramifications, the writer should consider the audience to be anyone from the people involved in the incident to your manager, insurance agents, investigators, and/or law enforcement to judges.

Other Considerations:

  • Witnesses: Unless you are working alone, you should always seek as many perspectives as is reasonable and possible when writing an accident/incident report. Different people may see different things or remember the situation differently.
  • Neutral Language: Because these documents may be used in court or in other legal proceedings, it is important to use objective language consisting of specific facts and neutral statements instead of impressions or emotional statements.

Examples:

Poor Example (too biased/emotional):  John was just doing his job, working hard like he always does, and being a great team player when Mark rammed into him with the forklift like he was some hitman from an action movie.

Good Example (neutral and specific):  John Smith was loading boxes on shelf B2 when Mark Peterson backed into him with the forklift, causing John to fall backward and hit a stack of boxes on the floor.

Poor Example (based on impressions):  It just seemed like Gus was always kind of sweet on Tanya, but he was kind of creepy at the same time. He just made everyone feel uncomfortable. He was too touchy-feely.

Good Example (neutral and specific):  On March 13, 2014, three employees (Margo Swinton, Barb Gell, and Tom Haven) heard Gus Broler say he had a crush on Tanya Vincent (another employee).  On March 14, 23, and 29, Tanya reported to her supervisor that Gus Broler made her feel uncomfortable because he continued to give her a back rub after she said she did not want him to touch her.

 

Knowledge Check

Inspection Reports

Figure 8.1.4 image presenting information to be included in an inspection report. “Setting Inspection Variables”, by Provost, C., 2017, Inspectioneering Journal, https://inspectioneering.com/journal/2017-02-28/6201/identifying-common-mistakes-in-inspection-interval-determination

What are inspection reports? An inspection report documents objective observations made regarding the conditions of a site, property, equipment, and installations.

You might write an inspection report for any of the following situations:

  • installation proficiency or condition of fire prevention equipment
  • condition of a building
  • building code compliance
  • networking equipment installation
  • post-repair conditions

Why are these reports important? Inspection reports can be used for a variety of reasons: for determining the suitability of a building for a specific use; for assessing the quality and accuracy of an equipment installation; to determine compliance to regulations or code. These reports are used for decision-making purposes, insurance claims, and even lawsuits. When writing such reports, it is important to document observations accurately and objectively.

What goes in an inspection report? Inspection reports document what the writer has observed based on a physical inspection. They also document deficiencies and required corrective measures. The corrective actions section describes actions that must be taken to correct or improve the conditions.

How do I format an inspection report? In many companies, routine inspections are documented using a checklist. This is common in fire protection, for example. If the company you work for does not have a routine checklist, you can either create one for routine inspections and use it as a template for such reporting in the future, or you can document an inspection in an inspection report–usually formatted as a short memo report.

Figure 8.1.5 inspection report layout with descriptions (Ewald, 2017).

Checklist for Inspection Reports – Include key details about your observations in your report. Such detail should include the following:

  • Date and time of the inspection
  • Location
  • Full names of people who attend the inspection
  • Circumstances leading up to the inspection: authorization, request, etc.
  • Overall description of the object being inspected
  • Detailed description of the object being inspected
  • Deficiencies observed
  • Environmental conditions if applicable (slippery floors, poor lighting, hazardous materials, etc.)
  • Corrective actions that are required

Who is the audience of inspection reports? Since these reports may have financial and/or legal ramifications, the writer should consider the audience to be anyone from your manager, property owners, sales agents, government regulators, insurance agents, investigators, and/or law enforcement and judges.

Language Use:

  • Use Neutral Language: These documents may be used to make decisions that have considerable financial implications, so it is important to use objective language consisting of specific facts and neutral statements instead of impressions or emotional statements.
  • Use of Jargon: Carefully consider your audience. If your primary or secondary readers are likely to be non-technical, either use plain language, or include a glossary or in-text definitions for the technical terminology, or jargon, used in your report.

Example:

Poor Example (non-specific): The shingles on the roof were poorly installed, with some of them missing from having been blown away by the wind.

Good Example (neutral and specific): Shingles on the upper front left side of the roof of 19 Cosborne Ave. in Toronto were blown off by the wind storm of February 15, 20XX. The exposed patch of roof is measured at 5 feet by 6 feet. No water-resistant sheeting is visible; exposed wood must be covered to prevent water damage while repairs are pending.

 

Knowledge Check

 

Contents of this section have been adapted from Will Fleming’s Technical Writing for Technicians, https://openoregon.pressbooks.pub/ctetechwriting/ Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License

 

References

Fleming, W. (2020). Technical writing for technicians. Open Oregon Educational Resources. https://openoregon.pressbooks.pub/ctetechwriting/ Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License

Ewald, T. (2017). Writing in the technical fields: A practical guide (2nd ed.). Oxford University Press.

 

License

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Technical Writing Essentials by Suzan Last is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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