Incident Report Vs. Accident Report – Differences For Business

Examining the differences between incident reports and accident reports by defining each’s meaning to today’s business.

Every day, it seems there are more and more files, forms, passwords, and reports than ever before in history. These are truly unprecedented times. And in all the confusion, sometimes a little further clarification can make all the difference between wasted and efficient time spent. Take the incident report vs. the accident report; even these forms can be confusing: which is which and when you should use one or the other?

Incident reports and accident reports are synonymous because an incident may be an accident, and an accident is a form of incident. The only difference is the assumption of fault: the assumption is an accident is no-fault, and an incident potentially being the fault of a person or persons.

Defining accidents and incidents for health and safety reporting purposes is essential to setting a standard for incident or accident reporting practices.

This guide intends to help you define incidents and accidents for your health and safety reporting program. We’ll also point you to some free and downloadable templates you can use to get started or the superior digital reporting platform, the 1st Incident Reporting app. We’ll start by going over some definitions of incidents to business operations; after all, it’s the real-life application that matters here.

Incident Report Defined

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Oxford defines an Incident as an event or occurrence. However, there is no defined nature of the event or occurrence that gives it the sense of a problem. But as soon as you enter the realm of health and safety reporting, an incident and thus incident report have a slightly more defined meaning.

Business And Industry Definitions Of Incidents By Type

Each industry has its definition of incident. And depending on the subject matter, some forms of incidents span across multiple industries. Let’s take a quick look at a few of the many incident report types that we find in North America alone.

Personal Injury Incidents

In the USA, the OSHA defines an incident as any event (or situation) in which a worker sustained an injury, or a ‘near miss’ occurred. Business’ is encouraged and in many cases liable for recording these situations with the appropriate forms. An example of a form for a small business might look something like this employee injury form

In Canada, the CCOHS oversees a similar injury reporting process. The definitions of what to report vary from province to province, but you can find the injury type to report here.

Human Resource Related Incidents

When it comes to human resources, companies face several potential incidents. However, when concerned with people, incidents may be defined as any event or situation involving a person or persons that involve injury, violation of company policies, violation of laws, or risk to a person.

The incidents that could fall into the category of human resources might include some of the following examples.

  • Employee injury report
  • Employee misconduct report
  • Employee incident report
  • Customer incident report
  • Near miss report
  • Dangerous situation report

Transportation Incidents

One of the most, if not the most common type of report that many of us are unfortunately acquainted with is the Vehicle Accident Report. If you have ever bought a used car, then you’ve experienced a part of the process for vehicle accident reporting. Every time a vehicle gets into an accident and reported to authorities, the authorities log the accidents so future car buyers can access a vehicle history.

According to the FSCO, in Ontario, Canada, a driver is required by law to report an accident to the local accident reporting center within 24 hours of the accident. When you’re in an accident

, you complete the automotive incident report at the reporting center. 

For reporting traffic and vehicular accidents, the accident or incident is defined as an event that causes damage to one or more vehicles. This type of incident may involve injury to people or damage to other forms of property as well.

Many companies that utilize fleet vehicles have their internal system for reporting vehicular incidents internally. When this is the case, using a digital solution for reporting is the best possible option.

Environmental Incidents

Environmental incidents are those events where danger or harm occurs to the environment. This sort of incident may include chemical or other substance spills like an oil spill, particulate concerns like those found in automotive battery recycling facilities and similar toxic chemical handling facilities, or the case of fisheries, this type of incident might include biological contamination like a disease in a fish population.

In standard industry terms, the most common environmental incident is a substance or chemical spill. For example, think of all the gas stations and how many times they need to use their spill kit for some spilled gas. Cleaning up a gas spill is considered an environmental incident, and fair reporting would include an appropriate environmental incident form to document the event.


When it comes to industries like construction, medical, or even security services, all businesses have one thing in common: the goal to maintain safe and incident-free facilities. In this sense, the incident defines any situation where an injury occurred or may have occurred. The latter using the specific Near Miss Report Template or Dangerous Situation Report Form

Most businesses include in their incident reporting the inclusion of damage to equipment or property. Some also include a near-miss report form for property or equipment. These forms do not always require that a person is involved, although all people’s health and safety are paramount. When a company uses expensive equipment, the reporting of near-miss accidents may pertain to equipment and property just as it does to people. And given a more autonomous age, more and more property and equipment related reports will be required.

Read all about the Incident Report and Disclosure Process here.

Types Of Incident Reports

As you can well imagine, there is a multitude of further different incident reports available. Some of these report examples are listed below.

  • Vehicle accident report form
  • Equipment Malfunction Form
  • Property Damage Form
  • Employee Injury Form

There is any number of situations where one might classify an event as an incident. It will entirely depend on your business reporting requirements and obligations, but typically it will involve situations where injury or damage has occurred or might occur to persons or property.

Accident Report Defined

Image by Steve Buissinne from Pixabay Edited by Farm 6 Media.

The word accident has two meanings for most people and businesses alike. The first meaning of accident is defined well by Oxford as “ an unfortunate and typically unforeseen event, a disaster, a mishap; (also) unfortunate eventuality.”

The second meaning is concerning a fate not so dire as that of damage or injury. In the second instance of an accident, we assume that there may not be a bad outcome. For example, one might say that they won a draw at work by accident. Therefore the meaning is that of an unplanned event.

In business, we tend to look at accidents with the first meaning in mind. It is true when it comes to our reporting processes used in health and safety. Ergo, our definition of an accident report is any report which documents any person or property’s real (or potential in the case of near-miss incidents) injury or damage.

Types of Accident Reports

Accident reports come in various flavors, but the business’s predominant accident reports pertain to accidents involving people and property. Some of the more common types of accident reports include the following.

  • Vehicle accident report – It is the most commonly used accident report. It might pertain to either a local or regional police report for a vehicular accident or a private company’s vehicle accident form like a security officer might use at a busy shopping mall for parking lot fender benders. 
  • Employee accident report – Also known as the Employee Injury Report, most instances where an employee sustains injury are due to an accident. Ergo, an employee injury or accident reports are the same in many cases.
  • Property damage report – The property damage report finds a use for detailing the damage caused to property, whether by the elements, people, vehicles, or another source.
  • Equipment damage report – Having a form or report to detail damage to equipment is essential to tracking driver or operator behaviors and department profitability.

As mentioned earlier, with so many different industries and so many types of potential accidents, the sky’s the limit for how many possible reporting forms could exist. However, using a generic or group of semi-generic forms works well enough for most small to medium-sized businesses.

Once your company gets to a specific size, scrambling around for the correct form is more than just a waste of company resources, it’s a waste of time. That’s when a digital solution is necessary, as the 1st Incident Reporting app: Everything your business needs for your health and safety incident and accident reporting. 

Why Should All Incidents And Accidents Be Reported?

Aside from the standard reporting requirements that drive most businesses to have a robust reporting system, there are also economic advantages. Most incident reporting practices fall into the class of money spent as part of nothing more than an operating expense. However, there is much more to it than meets the eye.

Reporting all incidents and accidents with an efficient system like the 1st Incident Reporting app is a way to do several things.

  • Aids in future investigations where required
  • Allows for trend analysis of incident and accidents
  • Aids in providing evidence or documentation if required for medical, insurance, or other purposes
  • Supports legal mandates that require business due diligence for reporting incidents and accidents

With these benefits to a robust reporting system, companies can save time and money when future situations require validation by documentation. 

Last Thought On The Incident Report Vs. Accident Report (And Their Differences)

An accident may be an incident, and an incident maybe by accident. A business defines incidents typically as those events where a person or property is injured or damaged. However, businesses often include near-miss events as incidents as well. Although a near miss may also be considered an accident, injury or damage must occur for it to be an accident, as it is commonly understood. But again, it depends on your particular business definition to report.

It may seem confusing trying to attempt to keep all the different incidents and accident forms organized. We’ve mentioned the value of using a digital solution. And although none of us want to have either an incident or an accident occur, having an efficient reporting system set up prevents future reporting costs and helps in several other ways should an event occur that requires reporting.

Sources

Featured image by Ag Ku from Pixabay, alterations by Farm 6 Media.

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