Many businesses invest considerable time and effort to ensure the safety of their customers. But in the event that an accident does occur, what you do immediately afterwards is critical to achieving a positive and timely outcome for everyone involved. In this three-part series, Risksmart will highlight three key steps businesses can take to be ready to respond effectively to an incident.
STEP 1: INCIDENT REPORTS
It is prudent for all businesses to complete an Incident Report in the event a member of the public suffers an injury or property damage from their business activities. Incident Reports should form the foundation of any business’ risk management procedures because Courts will consider these when assessing the liability of a defendant.
WHY ARE INCIDENT REPORTS IMPORTANT?
The importance of Incident Reports was emphasised in the recent case of Baker v Bunnings Group Limited  NSWDC 310, wherein a customer tripped and fell on a raised kerb as she traversed the carpark at Bunnings. In its decision, the District Court of NSW considered the Incident Report completed by Bunnings shortly after the incident. The Incident Report outlined that the area was inspected by staff and that it was free from slipping hazards. It also went on to outline there were no obstructions around the kerb.
The Court ultimately found in favour of Bunnings, concluding that the kerb presented an obvious tripping hazard to the claimant, which she ought to have avoided. Whilst the Court considered other evidence such as photographs and oral statements to reach their decision, this case demonstrates that Courts will carefully consider Incident Reports when investigating the facts of an incident and assessing the liability of a defendant.
CRITICAL INFORMATION TO CAPTURE
Incident Reports are designed to capture critical information pertaining to the incident. They should be completed as soon as possible after the incident to ensure that any relevant facts are not forgotten. Information in the Incident Report should be factual, accurate and objective – free from opinion and emotion.
REPORTS SHOULD INCLUDE THE FOLLOWING (AT THE VERY LEAST):
- Date, time and location of the incident. It is helpful here to include a diagram or map detailing the exact location. Photographs should also be taken of the incident area (more on this later).
- A detailed description of the incident as reported by the member of the public, including their alleged damage or injuries.
- Visual observations of the incident area.
- Name and contact details of all parties involved.
REPORTS SHOULD NOT INCLUDE:
- An opinion on liability or a statement conceding that your business was responsible for or caused the incident.
- Assumptions or inaccurate information about the events leading up to the incident or the incident itself.
- Reference to any similar or prior incidents.
A final note
Risksmart can utilise Incident Reports to track your long-term incident data, which can be used to identify trends in your business’ key risk areas and help prevent future incidents.
Feel free to contact Risksmart today to discuss how our Incident Reporting solutions can be tailored to your business.
National Technical Claims Manager