How to improve employee participation in incident reporting?

Marinka Lanne, Kaarin Ruuhilehto, Jari Knuuttila

    Research output: Contribution to conferenceConference articleScientific


    By collecting information on incidents, a company can learn how to prevent future incidents and thus make the company safer. Incidents include accidents, near-misses, and other deviations like hazardous situations and risk behaviour. A company can internally collect information about the factors and mechanisms, which can lead to accidents. Time and place, object and consequences, causes, and preventive and corrective actions are examples of important pieces of information collected on incidents. A big challenge is to get all the employees to recognize incidents and to report them. Another big challenge is to make a good use of all the incoming information which, indeed, is closely related to the first challenge discussed here. Incident reporting process was studied in two separate research projects at VTT in 2005-2006. One of the projects (A) considered development of incident reporting system for health care units and the other (B) considered development of an internal audit tool for actual incident reporting processes. One of the key questions of both studies was how to motivate employees to participate the incident reporting process. In the health care project three case units, two hospitals and a private clinic, were involved. In the other project, incident reporting processes were modelled in three case companies: an oil refinery, a chemical factory, and an amusement park. In both studies the incident reporting process was modelled. Every individual phase was examined to define the key characters to be considered from the point of view how they motivate employees to participate in the process. The model included all actions, actors, documentation tools, documents and information flow relating to incident reporting process. The examined phases were a) recognizing an incident (understanding hazards), b) reporting the incident, c) receipting and filing the report in a data base, d) investigating the incident and giving proposals for actions, e) data analysis and organisational learning, f) decision making about solutions and improvements, g) implementing and monitoring the corrective and preventive actions, and h) auditing the incident reporting process. In designing and implementing the reporting systems in health care units the motivational factors were considered in every phase resulting e.g. to anonymity, confidentiality and impunity of reporting, emphasizing and searching for the system causes of human errors, understanding the nature of human behaviour, and special attention to the quality of feedback and learning procedures. The features of the system affecting employees' motivation were also studied in the actual reporting systems in three case companies. This paper discusses the importance of considering of the motivational factors when an incident reporting system is designed and implemented and when an existing system is improved. The main purpose is to show that employee participation has an important role in incident reporting and motivational factors affect not only the reporting activity but also the final results and benefits the reporting system gives to safety and risk management.
    Original languageEnglish
    Publication statusPublished - 2007
    MoE publication typeNot Eligible
    Event17th Nordic Research Conference on Safety, NoFS 2007 - Tampere, Finland
    Duration: 13 Jun 200715 Jun 2007


    Conference17th Nordic Research Conference on Safety, NoFS 2007


    • incident reporting
    • near-miss reporting
    • employee participation
    • motivational factors


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