Incidents at Schools- Lessons and Tips for Better Recording and Reporting

Prevention should be the Name of the Game

Over the past few months I have followed articles in the newspapers about incidents at schools with interest.

My take is that many School Management teams fail to understand what incidents are, how to define and track them, and why the reporting and recording of them are so vital.

This blog post may shed some real insights.

What is an Incident?

The word Incident is defined by the South African Occupational Health & Safety Act, Nr. 85 of 1993 as any unwanted or undesired event (Sections 24/25, GAR8/9, GMR7).

Incidents can also be defined as “near-misses” or “near-hits” i.e. something that nearly happened but did not have an impact. Near-misses are often ignored but they serve as omens – signs that something could have potentially happened.

It is important to understand that the word incident does not signify magnitude, shape, size or impact of the incident. It merely says “Unwanted”. It therefore implies that all incidents no matter how small should be reported and recorded.

This is a well known concept in child care facilities, as teachers know that parents will be every upset when say for instance, a child is bathed at night, and mother spots an unreported graze or unreported bite mark.

In many schools there seem to be unreported and unrecorded cases of bullying and other issues. This is unfortunate and many times only come to light when a child stabs or shoots someone, or when a child tries to commit suicide or the matter goes public

And, often teachers pick up on interactions and behaviours that may indicate problems, but they do not see the potential danger nor threats nor the necessity to report.

Over the past 20 years in my assignments as lead part –time trainer for Scott-Safe, an ISO 9001:2008 Legal Compliance company, I have repeatedly shared with my audiences that “ Nothing is too small to report!” Why?

Example 1: If a nurse is drawing blood and the needle slips and pierces the plastic glove that she is wearing, she would need to report that immediately as she has come into contact with potential contaminated blood. Her life might be at stake.

Example 2: If a child is stung by a bee, would they need to be carefully monitored? Most definitely, because when children are small, it is unknown to parents that they might be allergic to bee stings. Bee stings often can be fatal.

Lesson 1: Nothing is too small to report.

Why Record and Report? 

The Health & Safety Act is very clear that employees should report incidents and potential hazards, and that management should record.

Unfortunately, many staff members do not realize the value of such reporting. They think that they might be seen as whistle blowers or snitches. They do not want make waves. They might be afraid to do so in fear of retaliation. Many reasons abound for the lack.

This lack of understanding Why, can be costly.

The real reason why incidents should be reported is that it prevents future events and enhances control and investigation purposes. The correct recording and reporting procedure will assist in efficient investigations and ultimately, the prevention of incidents to happen.

How can School Management act preventative, if they are not informed?

The lesson – Prevention is better than cure. Report things no matter how small they may seem, could prevent a tragedy from happening.

Scott-Safe uses a proprietary process /system which we teach to clients. Part of this system is the use of a document called a NIR Notifiable Incident Report) that will greatly assist in the reporting process.

Lesson 2: Rather report and deal with issues whilst they small, before they impact and cause loss of property or human life.

Improving their reporting and recording processes and ensuring that teachers and staff know and understand the value of such reporting can go a long way to prevent unnecessary incidents at schools, and ultimately prevent reputational damage and protect the good name of the school.