If you want to be successful at writing incident reports, there are five rules that you should follow. These rules can help you understand what an incident report needs to accomplish and how to keep your boss informed about important details in the future. If you follow these five rules, your incident reports will become more useful, effective, and easy to read in the long run. Read on to learn more about these five rules of incident report writing…
It’s important to write a good incident report; it’s also crucial to write clearly and follow specific procedures. However, every writer needs some basic tips before they begin writing their own report.
In spite of what popular media might lead us to believe, human memory is a pretty fickle thing. Even with notes in front of us, our brains cannot recall precise details from scenes we observe. Rather than taking meticulous notes during a crime scene investigation or another event that can be as clear as crystal in our minds, later on, it is best if we simply jot down notes while events are fresh in our minds and refer back to them after time has passed, so we don’t have any trouble recalling accurate details later on during our reports and evidence collection process. Otherwise, details become distorted over time due to stress or plain bad memory.
Rule 1: Be precise
Say exactly what happened, who was involved, where it happened, and when. Be specific. For example, this will help you avoid an argument with your boss about whether you were working at 7:20 a.m. or 7:30 a.m. It will also assist investigators in determining who should be reprimanded for an incident that might have happened on Monday but was reported Tuesday morning by another employee who saw it happen. If possible, include a witness statement from someone else who was present during the incident. If there is no witness, explain why not.
Rule 2: Be concise
Get right to the point. Don’t waste time repeating information that is already known, and don’t try to be cute or writing pretty. Your report should be readable and coherent, but you also want it to get all of its key points across efficiently. In a perfect world, your readers will take away only two things from a report: who did what and what are they going to do about it. If you can accomplish that in one page, great; if not, then go ahead and use two pages. But never let yourself get carried away with wordiness because there’s no way to edit out extra words once they’re written down.
Find yourself running long on a document like an incident report (or any other type of business communication) and stop writing. You can always save those extra thoughts for another day when you have more space available!
Rule 3: Provide relevant information
Don’t include personal details or irrelevant information. Write concisely and use short sentences. Don’t waste valuable time reading unnecessary information. The only exception to rule 3 is if your observations would add value to an investigation into how a situation arose or how you were able to respond so quickly to deal with it.
For example, if you were first on scene at a fire, and noted that all doors are self-closing metal ones, which may have prevented a spread of flames down a corridor, then that would be good information for others to know in case of any similar fires in future. If not relevant, keep it out!
A lot of reports include lots of personal details about who did what to whom etc when there is no relevance. This just clutters up your report and makes it harder to read. If not relevant, don’t mention it!
Rule 4: Maintain a proper tone
Your writing should be firm but avoid sounding upset or taking sides. This is a report, not an editorial piece. It should contain information only, no value judgments. Try to maintain a neutral tone in all your documents, even when you’re writing a negative evaluation of an employee’s work or lack thereof. Sometimes it feels better to vent and get everything off your chest in one angry rant, but that method has its drawbacks: some people don’t mind letting loose with their opinions, whereas others prefer to keep things professional at all times.
If you want to succeed as an incident report writer, always use a calm and levelheaded approach no matter how frustrating things are becoming around your workplace; you never know who is going to read your documents and disagree with what you’re saying about them.
Rule 5: Know when to end it and sign off
After you’ve gotten all relevant information out of your report and filled in every available space, there’s no reason to add more. Leaving it open-ended gives you a little wiggle room if something else comes up but doesn’t give other people cause to expect an explanation from you. At some point, you have to stop writing that might be it. So, finish your report, put down your pen and move on.
By now, you should have a solid understanding of what your report is and how to go about writing it. But I can’t stress enough that there is no one correct way to write an incident report. Indeed, different incidents require different types of reports. What is most important is that you communicate clearly in a professional manner on paper regardless of which incident report format you choose to use so that anyone who reads your report knows exactly what happened and why it happened. Keep these five rules in mind when writing an incident report, and you’ll be well on your way!
Good luck with your next assignment!