An incident report is a record of information obtained close to the time that the incident occurred. This report may be required by your insurance company should a claim be made or a lawsuit be filed.
What information is included in an incident report?
The incident report will provide basic information about the incident that caused injury---date, time, and location. A description of what happened should be included from the perspective of key witnesses and the injured person. A description of the claimed injuries should be included and any information available about reports of pre-existing injuries to the same body parts. Take photographs of the scene and/or injuries and include them in the report.
Why is an incident report prepared?
Insurance companies will generally request an incident report when a claim is made arising out of the incident that caused the injury. If a lawsuit is filed, the incident report will provide information that was obtained close in time to the accident and provides the most contemporaneous report and likely the most accurate. Incident reports assist organizations in learning from the incident in order the remedy any problems so similar accident can be prevented in the future.
Providing First Aid and Obtaining Medical Attention is First Priority
When an incident causing injury occurs, the first priority is to provide first aid and/or to obtain timely medical assistance. Don't delay in calling an ambulance or assisting the injured person in favor of preparing an incident report. This can wait until the injured person is stable. However, once the injured person has been transported by ambulance or other means to get medical care, the incident report can be started. Basic known information can be filled in and witness statements can be obtained.
How long should you keep the incident report on file and/or in a data base?
Consider the statute of limitations for bringing a tort action in your jurisdiction when deciding how long to keep the document. If the statute of limitations runs in 2 years from the date of the accident, keep the incident report for at lease 2 years. However, you may wish to keep it longer--just in case. If a minor is injured, the statute of limitations will not begin to run until the minor becomes an adult. It's best to check with an attorney about statute of limitations before making decisions about destroying incident reports.
A lesson on how not to handle reported injuries:
About 15 years ago, I was running on a treadmill in a very exclusive health club when I suddenly flew off the machine, cutting my leg in the process. I’m not sure if the tread on the machine was worn out or if I stepped in a way that contributed to the mishap. Nevertheless, I suffered a bloody gash in my leg that required some minor first aid. There were quite a few horrified witnesses, but no gym staff to be found. I wandered the club, hoping to find an employee. Eventually, I came upon a staff member in an office adjacent to the weight room. His response to the incident was to give me 2 small bandages. I was not asked to fill out an incident report of any kind. There was also no special attention given to the wound. No questions were asked about how the incident happened.
There was no attempt to determine whether the machine needed maintenance or repair. The machine was not taken out of service. Witnesses were not interviewed. My name was not recorded and as far as the health club was concerned, they discharged their duties by giving me a few bandages. The gash resulted in a fairly large scar on my shin. I had no interest in filing a lawsuit or making an insurance claim, but I did want the general manager to know how the club handled the incident as I hoped that improvement could be made in the future. After all, I was a member and reasoned that my monthly dues would increase if lawsuits were filed. I contacted the general manager and he agreed to meet me and look at the scar. He said that he was shocked to see how big the scar was and seemed interested in attempting to improve future responses to injuries sustained in the facility.
How does your facility address injuries and record relevant information?
How does your facility handle injuries sustained on the premises? Do you have everyone fill out an incident report? As you can imagine, if the above incident resulted in a lawsuit, it would have been much easier for the health club to communicate the facts to its insurance carrier and attorney if an incident report was prepared, recording the basic facts and listing witnesses. In my book, Managing Risk in Sport and Recreation: The Essential Guide for Loss Prevention (2009), Human Kinetics, I discuss incident reports and provide a form that you can use. In order to update your risk management plan, take a look at your facilities’ procedures and forms used for this purpose.