How To Report Health & Safety Concerns

General Safety By Matthew Coombes

The purpose of reporting health and safety concerns is to prevent a concern from becoming an incident or an accident.

More often than you would think, hazards are observed well before an incident or accident occurs, but reporting processes either haven’t been suitable or haven’t been used – those concerned by the safety issue didn’t manage to report it, or did and it wasn’t properly followed up.

A concern about safety can often be as valid as reporting a near miss or incident.

Reporting procedure

To report a safety concern, there first needs to be a procedure for people to follow in order to report concerns. The exact process of the reporting procedure will be different between organisations, as each organisation has different teams and will need to be designed to be used by those encountering the risks.

For example, if you have a digital reporting procedure, how is that going to be used by staff in the field, without access to the documents or intranet, or staff with low computer competencies?

If your reporting process is through 1-1 conversations between staff and management, what’s the process for capturing that information? Does the manager write up the report for the staff member, and once it’s written up, what happens next?

Whatever format your reporting process takes, make sure it works.

Awareness of procedure

As well as making sure that the procedure can be used by everyone, make sure that people know about it, and encourage them to report issues.

This means staff not being afraid of repercussions for reporting concerns, near misses, incidents, and accidents.

Reporting policies

A policy regarding reporting can provide a general viewpoint of the organisation on the issue being addressed, and provide expectations for employees and employers from the organisation to follow.

In a sense, it sets expectations and ‘the rules of engagement’ for following your reporting procedure.

Follow up actions

Reporting is worthless without actions to follow up the report and resolve issues that have been raised. Your procedure should include procedure for team leaders, supervisors and managers to use to escalate safety concerns to the relevant person, or in a means that can lead to them being resolved.

Resources for follow up actions

Let me take you back on a mystical journey to when I worked in retail, long before I even had an awareness of health and safety.

There was an entrance to the store that was made of concrete. The concrete had started to break up, leading to a noticeable hole in the floor which gradually grew. This was likely due to the daily parade of pallet trucks, goods trolleys, footfall and customer trolleys through this one space.

One morning, the manager stumbled on the hole, took a large floor mat from stock to cover it, and raised the issue of having the floor resurfaced to eliminate the issue.


Multiple reports of this issue had been submitted, including having this issue added in with other problems at the front of the store, such as the anti-theft alarms not working. Management hadn’t been able to get those above them in the chain of command to agree to fix the entrance.

After a particularly stormy period with heavy rainfall, the floor mats at the store entrance had gradually inched forwards with the foot wiping throughout the day, and an older gentleman using a crutch had entered the store and tripped on the hole in the concrete, taking a short and probably painful trip to the floor.

If this gentleman was injured, and decided to sue the organisation, it would likely cost them a lot more than repairing the issue in the first place.

This is a real-life example of how a manager can have some resources, but not all of the resources required to resolve a safety concern, especially if the concern is their own!

Measuring performance

What gets measured gets done. It’s important that you ensure that your procedure includes a way of measuring reporting, the action that is taken to resolve issues. You can then compare your concern, incident, near-miss and accident reporting to your incidences of injury, accident and lost time, and see if your reporting actions have worked.

Then start it all again from the beginning, adjusting your procedure, policies, how you engage with staff and so on until safety is improved.

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