How to develop an incident management program

On 03 May 2021, an elevated section of Mexico City’s subway system collapsed as a train made its way across, plunging several cars onto the road below and killing at least 25 people and injuring more than 70. An investigation is under way into the cause of the collapse.
What happened? One of the support beams on an elevated track on Mexico City’s subway system gave way, causing several train cars to fall to the road below. As of 2 days after the incident, 25 people had died and 38 people remained hospitalized.

Who could predict an incident like this! Whilst most companies today – rightly so – focus on incident prevention, they are nearly impossible to mitigate completely. Tools that assist you in being able to prevent unforeseen incidents are as critical to any incident management program. Making sure your company is equipped to deal with incidents that do occur as quickly and effectively as possible is the second crucial element. Including both proactive and reactive incident management is also a key part of any Business Continuity Plan. Some guidelines to implement such a program include as follows.

Make sure you approach incident management with the right culture

Incident management should not be seen as an isolated activity in any business. In today’s environment of high compliance and high-risk management, it should be seen holistically as part of the company’s entire risk management program, one that adds value to the organisation and not just something that is just a compliance activity. It is important that the incident management team understand how their program fits into the organisation’s overall structure, and that they embrace the organisation’s culture.

The goal for an incident management program should be one that allows your team to spend most of their time empowering the organisation to create a more resilient one. They should not be buried in meetings and overwhelmed with reporting (usually on Excel spreadsheets)!

If you do not already have one, tools such as Rapid Risk are able to assist with effective management of the overall business continuity plan, and management thereof.

Appoint the incident team

Appointing an Incident management champion is critical to the success of any incident management program. This does not need to be an isolated function and can fall within a scope of functions. It must be an individual who is ultimately responsible for the implementation, maintenance, and execution of the incident plan. They must be able to take charge when an unplanned event occurs, either personally or via their incident management team.

This person will be responsible for other incident team members, ensuring they are properly trained, know the incident management program, and how to execute it when required. They could be the OHS Manager, the HR Manager, or, depending on the organisation, a specifically appointed incident manager.

Design and document your incident templates

Critical to any incident management program is a well-designed template for the correct response to each incident that could occur. This template must ensure that all stakeholders can clearly understand the steps they must take when specific types of incidents occur. Stakeholders must have access to them and be versed in what to do (there is no time to read up when in the middle of a critical incident).

Stakeholders must also be able to easily identify types of incidents so that the correct action is taken and the right people advised. Reporting the severity of an incident is essential, as the same incident description can require 2 very different responses depending on how severe it is. Ensuring that stakeholders rate incident severity consistently is not an easy task and clear guidelines are needed to achieve this.

Some of these incident reporting templates could include:

  • Accident Incidents
  • Force of nature incidents
  • Employee Incidents
  • Offense incidents
  • Security incidents
  • Workplace violence incidents
  • Workplace harassment incidents
  • Environmental incident

Some of the incident rating criteria could be:

  • Life-threatening
  • Severe
  • Major
  • Moderate
  • Minor
  • Insignificant

Software solutions like Rapid Incident reporting can assist with automating this process, so implementation is seamless and thorough.

Gather and relate information

Once an incident has occurred, the information supplied late, inaccurately or incompletely and to the wrong people could cost lives, result in far more serious than necessary injury and / or cost your organisation a significant amount of money. You, therefore, need to be able to ensure you can quickly gather as much information as possible, that it is accurate and communicated to the right people. A process is therefore required to ensure stakeholders know how to go about this.

With the technology available today, and especially with incident reporting software solutions like Rapid Incident reporting, it is not difficult to report incidents via your mobile device, as and when it happens. They also allow for pre-determined workflows, based on the type and severity of the incident, upload of videos, photos, and voice notes, so that the ability to communicate quality information is much improved. Designing and implementing a workflow process in this manner is quick and relatively simple to do.

Implement the incident management plan

Now that you know the who’s and the how’s, it’s important to ensure that stakeholders can actually action the incident management plan once an incident occurs. Of course, this takes training, not only of the incident management team but all stakeholders in the organisation.
As an organisation is in continual flux, training needs to keep pace with the constant changes. It is important therefore to ensure training is ongoing, not just for new inductees but for all members of the organisation, as their roles, responsibilities, and locations change. Training needs to be such that it is not just a tick box exercise – remember lives could be lost with the incorrect action. It needs to ensure that stakeholders are properly versant on required actions and also on how to physically deploy those actions.
The training itself must also be kept updated and any changes effectively communicated to all stakeholders. Software solutions like Rapid Induct are great tools to use for ongoing training.

Continual testing of the incident management plan must take place all the time – including tabletop discussions and in-depth operational exercises – to ensure the plan is robust and keeps pace with the changing organisational needs.

Version control and ongoing training is also something that is easily deployed using software solutions available today. These solutions allow for online access to material by stakeholders at convenient times and in a format that is easy to understand. They also allow for knowledge testing and knowledge rating.

Use your incident information to prevent incidents

Once you have a database of incidents that have occurred, it is very easy to use this information to predict incidents. What incidents are most likely to occur, how frequently, where and when they will occur becomes far easier to predict when you can use your historic incident data. This helps you to start building a incident management program that is as proactive as it is reactive, and you can now start to put programs in place that mitigate your identified incidents. Being proactive will allow your team to meet their objectives, thereby creating a very satisfying and productive team.

Report and maintain your plan

No incident management plan would be effective without reporting tools that allow you to analyse, track, trend, and rate incidents. These reports will help you to minimize your risk of incidents by allowing you to better predict incidents. They also allow you to understand, from a high level, what your macro business risk is and how best to protect your organisation. This information will also ensure your incident management program is properly maintained, as the reports will highlight gaps and areas where improvement is required.

If an incident reporting software solution is being used, this information is easily extracted in easy to use formats. Rapid Incident reporting is one such tool that can assist significantly.


This may appear a daunting task, but fortunately in this modern world cost-effective and easy to implement software solutions will help! Incident reporting software solutions, like the Rapid Incident Reporting software solution, will take care of all of these steps for you. They are flexible based on the size of your company, quick to implement and easy to use. Their years of experience ensure the implementation process is as painless as possible, minimize administration, and let you get on with the job.

Companies like OVS Solutions (Pty) Ltd, the Africa Licensee of the award-winning Rapid Global Software, have been delivering Health & Safety software solutions for over 20 years. Their only business is the continued development and improvement of their software, to make sure that the solutions keep pace with the ever-changing landscape. All their solutions come with mobile apps.

OVS Solutions, the Africa Licensee of Rapid Global, also have a great support team who are available to assist with live or online demonstrations, user guides, and relevant information you may require. They will share their tips on how to best maximize user adoption and can help you deliver on your plan! Contact OVS Solutions today for a free demo or more information.