When it comes to incidents or accidents in the workplace, it’s important to get to grips with the terminology used.
A very common question is ‘What is the difference between accident and incident?‘ The way related terms are used can vary across different companies, sectors and countries.
Let’s take a look at how different terms are used in the UK…
Definitions for Adverse Events
Accident: an event that results in injury or ill health;
Incident: an incident may be classed as either a
– near miss: an event that, while not causing harm, has the potential to cause
injury or ill health. (In this guidance, the term near miss will be taken to
include dangerous occurrences);
– unsafe condition: a set of conditions or circumstances that have the potential to cause injury or ill health, e.g. untrained nurses handling heavy patients.
Dangerous occurrence: one of a number of specific, reportable adverse events,
as defined in the Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences
Regulations 1995 (RIDDOR).
Accident and Incident Consequences
- fatal: work-related death;
- major injury/ill health: (as defined in RIDDOR, Schedule 1), including fractures
(other than fingers or toes), amputations, loss of sight, a burn or penetrating
injury to the eye, any injury or acute illness resulting in unconsciousness, requiring
resuscitation or requiring admittance to hospital for more than 24 hours;
- serious injury/ill health: where the person affected is unfit to carry out his or her
normal work for more than three consecutive days;
- minor injury: all other injuries, where the injured person is unfit for his or her normal
work for less than three days;
- damage only: damage to property, equipment, the environment or production
losses. (This guidance only deals with events that have the potential to cause harm
Beyond that, we can delve deeper into the reasons for an incident or accident occurring and aim to find:
Underlying cause: the less obvious ‘system’ or ’organisational’ reason for an
adverse event happening, eg pre-start-up machinery checks are not carried out
by supervisors; the hazard has not been adequately considered via a suitable risk assessment etc.
Root cause: an initiating event or failing from which all other causes or failings
Root causes are generally management, planning or organisational failings.
Accident and Incident Reporting Bundle
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