Incidents are an unfortunate reality for any company. They occur all the time, at any given time. In EHS management, an incident could be said to be any unplanned or undesired event which occurs and which may cause a varying degree of damage or harm to people, plant, materials, equipment, or the environment, with either short or long term adverse effects for a company.
But there is a mistake all too often made with regard to incident management and the tracking of incidents within a company. And that mistake is in the seeming singularity of those two words – ‘incident’ and ‘management’. Incident management is not a singular, stand alone component within an existing management system. Too often that is how EHS/safety management teams relate to incident management, i.e. as if it were a systemic end in itself. But it is not. Rather, in order for incident management to be effective and meaningful it must be viewed and managed within its greater whole, namely that of non-conformance management.
Take this example by means of an explanation: a forklift driver loses control of his forklift in an electronics warehouse and veers into a stack filled with electronic goods and equipment, causing the stack to catastrophically collapse and goods and equipment to come crashing down on top of the forklift and into the adjacent aisle. The driver is lucky to escape with minor bruises, but there is hundreds of thousands of dollars of damage caused. Is it enough to call this an incident, even a ‘serious’ incident, and to act accordingly within those confines? It is contended here that such an approach is too limited.