No solar operations manager wants a workplace incident to occur under his/her watch, which is why it’s important to ensure there is a strong safety plan in place. One part of the plan is to focus on prevention, where companies proactively put training and identification measures in place, such as a job hazard analysis and mitigation.
The other component is reactive and focuses on ensuring there are processes in place for if an accident does occur (for clarity: an accident is an incident where there is a personal injury). Depending on the severity of the accident, such steps can include immediate treatment of the accident victim, documenting the incident and reporting it to the US Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). This article is focused on how to best perform the lattermost activity: incident reporting.
Why Proper Incident Reporting is Crucial
Using the lessons and data learned from an accident to prevent similar ones from occurring again in the future is a key reason for properly documenting incidents. Incident reporting and subsequent analysis are best practices for a safer workplace and can help you identify the steps needed to improve the working environment and employee safety training.
Another major reason to reinforce proper incident reporting is to ensure that your company is in compliance with OSHA’s regulatory standards. By having sufficient documentation that is appropriately cataloged, you will save time and worry, and reduce the risk of hefty fines or sanctions in the event a workplace inspection occurs.
However, such an important part of workplace safety is still entrusted to paper forms that can easily be lost or sloppily filled in with partial, missing, and often illegible information.
The Incident Reporting Process
As a brief overview, the common steps for responding to a workplace accident across most industries are as follows:
- Ensure the injured employee(s) receives appropriate attention. Supervisors should be aware of the different severity levels of injury and know the recommended medical action to take at each level.
- Following the accident, the supervisor completes an incident reporting form. For example, see OSHA’s template for an employee injury report form.
- Ensure all appropriate personnel are notified. Accidents happen and as much it is human nature to sweep workplace mishaps under the rug, incidents needs to be shared. Having employees who are aware and informed can be more beneficial for everyone’s safety.
- Submit incident report according to the rules of the regulatory body in your jurisdiction. For detailed documentation on how to set up an incident reporting process that meets regulatory standards, see OSHA’s Small Business Handbook.
- Take the time to feed the learnings from the accident back into improving workplace safety procedures. Failure to do so will affect the integrity and strength of your safety system and lead to repeat of past incidents.
Why Incident Reporting Needs to Go Mobile
Having a well-thought-out incident reporting process is a great first step for increased safety measures in the workplace, but it is not fully effective without a system to enforce and streamline it. Many workplace incidents will occur at solar sites away from the office and companies rely on error-prone paper forms for reporting. Using modern-day technology such as mobile apps to execute incident reporting not only helps the adoption of safety best practices, but also provides the following benefits:
- Ease of Reporting Accidents Empower supervisors with the opportunity to submit reporting on-site, while the incident is fresh. If the incident reporting form is available on their mobile devices, supervisors will be able to access and execute the appropriate procedures instantly. As an example, with Scoop, the relevant form can be accessed offline and filled in intuitively, with hazards recording accurately captured using multimedia.
- Accessibility of Documentation for Training and Regulatory Requests Having an incident reporting platform that integrates with your backend IT systems ensures that there’s no need to manually re-enter form data into a digital database. This provides you with one-stop access to standardized data for reporting purposes (see here for a list of incidents that are mandatory to report to OSHA). Also, it enables you to collect a pool of safety knowledge available to managers, supervisors and employees for awareness and training purposes.
- Easily Track the Most Common Preventable Injuries and Get Proactive To follow up on the previous point, using a mobile reporting platform that integrates with so-called “systems of record” enables you to perform analytics to find patterns in common incidents. This information can then be used to inform the development of future safety training talks to address key issues.
- Know When Things Happen, Now By using a platform with an automatic sync feature like Scoop, managers will receive incident reports instantly as soon as the field crew enter the data. This helps quickly disseminate the important details to any relevant parties to increase transparency and aid the coordination of a faster response.
- Enable Continuous Improvement of Incident Reporting Forms Transferring the incident reporting form into a mobile format gives you the freedom to make as many form iterations as needed. Printed forms are inflexible and cause managers to save up all the form improvements for a major version change. Going mobile enables you to make small changes that get pushed out to field crews instantly – you never know what a difference a minor improvement makes!
In addition to the above advantages, using a mobile platform offers benefits such as reducing potential errors or missing information in forms. If you are a solar manager responsible for ensuring your employees’ safety, truly consider the benefits of mobilizing incident reporting to make it more efficient for everyone involved, from the injured employee and on-site supervisor to you and the reporting authority.