Northwestern Office for Research


Incident and Accident Reporting

All laboratory incidents shall be reported to ORS, including minor spills, fires, or injuries. Laboratory incidents shall be investigated. ORS requires that an Incident Report Form be completed by the person(s) involved in the incident. The person's supervisor is expected to sign the completed form. The supervisor shall be responsible for ensuring that corrective action to prevent repeat incidents is undertaken.

ORS may also prepare an investigation report, depending on the staff's involvement in the cleanup of spilled materials or as follow-up for the incident. Investigations are made and reports written not only to satisfy certain laws but also to learn the cause of the problem and what changes in procedures, equipment, or training should be made to avoid other accidents.

Fires or injuries not requiring outside assistance shall be reported to the Office of Risk Management. The Office of Risk Management documents all fires and shall report all accidental employee injuries to the University's Workers' Compensation carrier and lost-time injuries to the Illinois Industrial Commission. The injuries shall also be entered in the OSHA Injury Log. In case of a fire, injury, or other accident requiring outside assistance, the Office of Risk Management shall write an investigation report.


When to Submit an Incident report

An incident report form must be delivered to the Office for Research Safety (ORS) within five days of the incident.

  • An incident is defined as any unplanned and unwanted event that occurred during the performance of work activities and that resulted in or could have led to injury or material damage to property. Incident repercussions range from minor (e.g., a broken mercury thermometer) to significant (e.g., a 5-gallon bottle of sulfuric acid dropped in a heavy-traffic hallway).
  • An Incident Report is appropriate for "near misses," incidents not resulting in personal harm or property damage, but which might have, under slightly different circumstances.
  • The Incident Report requires responses from (I) the person involved, (II) any witnesses to the incident, and (III) the Principal Investigator/Supervisor. Attach additional pages if necessary to complete the report. Reports that are not signed by the PI/supervisor will be returned for completion. The committees require input from the supervisor. See completed Example following the instructions.
  • Commonly, there are multiple causes in any given incident-all of which should be identified. Provide a complete and detailed response to each question, making a serious attempt to identify all "root cause(s)." The contributing factors were probably evident, but overlooked or unrecognized previously. These factors become more distinctly identifiable in light of the specifics of the incident A well-planned work process will include multiple layers of safeguards. Once causes are identified at all levels, consider safeguards and procedures that might be changed to prevent future incidents.
  • This report is not intended to assign blame; it should be used as a tool to foster recommendations for procedural improvement. A well-prepared report will identify all work systems that need to be redesigned to compensate for foreseeable human errors. These reports will also be used to improve safety policies.

Incident Response

  • Please refer to Section 18.0 of The Radiation Safety Handbook for radiation emergencies.
  • Emergency Phone Numbers and procedures may be found in your department emergency evacuation plan, your Employee Safety Handbook, or on the ORS Emergencies web page.

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