Writing A Good Incident Report

Written by J. Hirby and Fact Checked by The Law Dictionary Staff  

Though writing an incident report may seem straightforward, it isn’t as easy to craft a logical, helpful report as it seems. These highly detailed reports can have long reaching effects on an organization and how it operates. Accordingly, it’s important to have thorough knowledge of how to write a good incident report.

Just the Facts

Perhaps the hardest part of writing an incident report is separating facts from opinions and assumptions. Doing so requires reflection and rewriting, which is why it’s important not to rush the process. Approach the incident as a reporter would, focusing on the who, what, when, where, why and how. This helps establish the events as they happened and may also dispel many of the assumptions that are easy to make in the aftermath of an incident.

It is not necessary for the incident report to make an emotional appeal or to pass judgment on the situation. Clear, dispassionate language that accurately depicts events is sufficient for the most effective incident reports.

Timing

Although writing a thorough incident report requires time, it is essential that the investigation and writing process begin as soon after the incident as possible. It is in the short space of time after an incident that memories will be clearest and less likely to contain embellishment. All witnesses and participants should be interviewed immediately. Taking notes or recording the interviews is advisable so that it’s possible to write a more inclusive, complete report.

Format

Because an incident report may be reviewed by a great number of people, it’s important to be as clear and concise as possible. Good grammar, punctuation and spelling are essential in order to accurately convey the events. Moreover, it’s important to use a format that has been approved by the organization. Some companies have established a form that must be filled out while others leave it to employees to draft a text document. Whichever route is chosen, it’s important to report the incident objectively. This provides the appropriate people with the information they need to analyze the incident and look for ways to prevent a repetition in the future.

Writing a good incident report is a valuable skill that has a direct effect on the productivity of a company and the safety of its employees. By using these guidelines, any organization can protect their interests and find better, safer ways to operate.

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