In our last post, we shared a compact guide to choosing the right incident management software for your company, business or organization. Building on that, we wanted to offer a complete overview of incident management systems, including what they are, how they work and the benefits that they can offer.
In this post, we’re presenting a complete start-to-finish guide to incident management systems in 2019. Our aim for is to give you a complete overview of these systems and explain how they help organizations of all sizes save time, keep their employees safe and boost revenue.
In this start-to-finish guide, we’ll cover the following areas
- What is an Incident Management System?
- Types of incidents explained
- Why invest in an Incident Management System?
- Key advantages of Incident Management Systems
- Taking your next steps
1. What is an Incident Management System?
An incident management system is any system that helps an organization respond to, manage or prevent any incidents that occur on their premises or that affect their staff or customers.
The system should cover the following five factors:
- Communication systems
These five factors are a critical part of a company’s incident management system, regardless of whether it is paper-based, electronic, or a hybrid system.
Let’s look at them in greater detail:
The backbone of any incident management system is a list of procedures that staff must follow in the event of an incident, accident, or event.
Traditionally, incident management systems have been paper-based collections of handwritten or printed documents that are filed and stored.
In Australia, most small businesses create a written document called a Safety Statement. This document outlines how the business plans to minimize risk on their premises. It will cover the control measures and risk assessments that need to be conducted to ensure that staff and contractors remain as safe as possible at all times.
While this method of procedure documentation may be referred to as paper-based, documents may be typed on MS Word or Excel and stored electronically, or printed out and stored as hard copies for safekeeping.
Many companies utilize incident management software to help them track, manage and respond to incidents as they occur. This software is available to, and used by, all members of the organization, from junior employees to senior stakeholders.
The software is used to:
- Report incidents.
- Respond to specific situations.
- Resolve problems as they occur.
The main benefit of using incident management software is that all members of an organization are kept updated and informed about incidents in real-time. In the event of a physical incident, incident management software can notify the relevant stakeholders and suggest an appropriate workflow for responding to the incident. In the case of IT-related software, the software itself is able to initiate certain responses to problems, such as rebooting a server in the event of a crash, for example.
3. Communication systems
All companies need a communication system in place in order to implement their incident management system.
A communication system could include some or all of the following options:
- Instant messaging platforms
One of the advantages of investing in incident management software is that it provides a communication system for a company’s employees to use. Staff can use the software’s platform to keep in touch with each other and monitor incidents as they occur.
For example, when an incident happens, staff can use the incident management platform to file an incident report. The software then sends email and/or SMS notifications to other members of the organization and critical stakeholders, alerting them to the situation in real-time.
As all communications are in one place, the platform provides a holistic communication system for all members of the organization to use. They can track, monitor and resolve incidents along the way, through a variety of channels including messages, notifications, and updates.
The fourth key factor in any incident management system is the equipment used by employees. This includes the physical devices used to access the incident management software (such as laptops and mobile devices) as well as any equipment required to deal with the incidents.
Common communication equipment includes:
- Computers and laptops
- Mobile devices
- Handheld communication devices such as walkie-talkies
Most incident management software platforms have their own app designed to work with iOS and Android devices. This means that personnel can simply install the app on their work or personal mobile devices to gain access to the platform at their convenience.
The fifth factor necessary for an incident management system to be effective is personal. This includes a company’s employees, but may also include contractors who must be trained to respond to incidents.
Employees must be trained to:
- React to incidents
- Understand the nature of various incidents
- Follow the correct procedures when responding to incidents
To ensure that all employees work together in the event of an incident or emergency, the employer must provide comprehensive training. However, today’s incident management software is able to generate workflows for staff can follow. These are written procedures that help staff deal effectively with specific incidents.
Software-generated workflows help ensure that those who are first to respond to an incident have as much data as possible. They are better able to respond in the shortest amount of time and maintain effective communication during emergency situations.
2. Types of incidents explained
Now that we’ve looked at what an incident management system is, it’s time to turn our attention to the types of incidents that are commonly dealt with.
Incidents will tend to fall into one of the following three categories:
- Physical incidents
- Environmental issues
- IT-related issues
Each of these four categories requires different types of responses, with different procedures.
1. Physical incidents
In this category, you’ll find general or community complaints, general illnesses among staff, and serious injuries or illnesses involving staff and contractors. This category also covers incidents such as fires, explosions, motor vehicle collisions, and near misses.
2. Environmental issues
This category covers damage to either the organization’s premises or equipment, loss of environmental containment (spills and leaks) and security breaches.
3. IT-related issues
IT-focused incident management software helps employees resolve IT issues such as using specific software, dealing with server failure, or other issues that lead to downtime. Unlike physical and environmental issues, IT-related issues can often be responded to automatically by the software. This may help resolve the incident without any human intervention. For example, if a company’s server crashes, incident management software may be able to restart the server to resolve the incident.
3. Why invest in an Incident Management System?
As we’ve shown, most organizations use paper-based incident management systems, built around Safety Statements to respond to and address incidents. So why would an organization invest in a software or cloud-based incident management system?
There are four main reasons why an organization would want to invest in improving or upgrading their incident management system:
- Improving employee safety
- Saving time
- Minimizing risk
- Maintaining and/or increasing profits
Improving employee safety
Well-designed incident management systems can give a company a powerful combination of data and communication tools that can help it respond to incidents faster. Potentially, this can save time and, in emergency situations, it may even save lives.
The main benefit of having a software or cloud based system is that all communication channels are combined. Organizations that use incident management software can accomplish more in less time than if they were using a paper-based system. For example, incident reporting with a software-based system takes a fraction of the time of compiling a paper-based report.
Incident management systems help improve employee safety by giving a company real-time situational awareness. This helps ensure that employees receive the most appropriate support at the earliest opportunity, helping to prevent incidents from escalating.
Maintaining and/or increasing profits
In Australia, firms are legally responsible for reporting serious harm incidents to the relevant statutory authorities. Robust incident management systems can help automate this process, ensuring that the organization doesn’t fall foul of laws and become subject to fines that may adversely affect their profitability.
4. Key advantages of Incident Management Systems
A well-designed incident management system offers the following key advantages:
- Preparedness to deal with incidents
- Effective communication within an organization
- Increased safety for employees, clients, and contractors
To understand more about these key areas, we’ll look at each in more detail.
1. Preparedness to deal with incidents
One of the top advantages of a robust incident management system is that all employees are sufficiently prepared to deal with a wide range of incidents. In the event of an emergency, first responders will have a clear idea of any hazards they may encounter and will have been trained how to respond.
In addition to training, the incident management system will give employees the tools they need to deal with various scenarios. This may include interactive maps of the location, CCTV points, utility shut-off points, first-aid kit locations, and access points.
Using the incident management software platform, staff can report incidents and keep the entire organization aware of their actions in real-time. The platform enables other employees to offer guidance or advice and lets critical stakeholders see the specific actions that were taken and how the incident was resolved.
A key advantage of using incident management software is that it lets senior management retrospectively look at how past events unfolded. They can identify pain-points that prevented the issue from being resolved faster and find ways of improving response times in the future.
2. Effective communication within an organization
The second key advantage of having a well-designed incident management system in place is that it provides staff with effective communication channels at all times. All leading software platforms are cloud-based meaning they can be accessed from any computer or mobile device with internet access.
This ensures that incident reporting takes place in real-time, with all members of the organization able to track incidents as they occur.
The communication channels can be highly customized so staff can receive communication according to their preferences. This could include SMS messages, emails or push notifications, as they choose.
In an emergency situation, the incident management software provides a timeline of communications so that senior managers can track the flow of communications and see whether the incident was escalated or resolved, and how. This gives key personnel real-time situational awareness.
Some incident management software is able to act as an emergency notification system. This means it can be used to report emergency incidents such as fires or spills as soon as they occur. During an incident, the system will keep contact with all employees via a range of communication channels including voice, SMS messaging and email.
For example, in the event of an emergency situation, the first staff member on the scene could initiate contact with emergency operators, all via the incident management system’s platform. This reduces the response times of emergency services.
3. Increased safety for employees, clients, and contractors
The third key advantage of incident management systems is that risks to employee’s safety can be minimized and managed. Incident management software that offers a smartphone app provides employees with direct access to the incident platform at all times. If they notice a problem, see something suspicious or have any issues, they can alert their supervisors and senior managers with ease.
Some incident management software even lets employees called 911 or alert onsite security with the press of a button. This can ensure that critical data is delivered instantaneously and can help shorten response times.
5. Taking your next steps
This start-to-finish guide has explained everything you need to know about incident management systems in 2019.
While some organizations will continue to rely on basic safety statements and paper-based procedures, an increasing number of companies are choosing to adopt incident management software to facilitate their overall incident management system. The right software can help any organization achieve its goals for a safe and secure workplace.
Contact us for a demo to see for yourself how our incident management software can meet your needs!
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