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What is the Difference Between an Accident and an Incident?

Posted on October 2, 2012 by Heather Cuthill

In occupational health and safety lingo, the terms “accident” and “incident” may appear to be interchangeable – but they’re not. An incident is any situation that unexpectedly arises in the workplace which has the potential to cause injury, damage or harm. An accident is actually an incident that resulted in someone being injured or damage being done to property.

Image: David Castillo Dominici /

As an example, if someone leaves a ladder leaning in a precarious position and it falls over without harming anyone or causing damage to the premises or to any items on the premises, that is an incident. If the ladder lands on someone when it falls over, causing injury to the person, that is anaccident. All work-related incidents need to be reported, but employers may have different forms for reporting injury accidents. And the responsibility for reporting an incident vs. reporting an accident may fall on different shoulders. Although the word “accident” may imply something that is outside of our control, in fact most accidents are preventable, if people simply follow the occupational health and safety guidelines and policies adopted for their workplace. It is the employer’s responsibility to educate and train employees in safety procedures, to reduce the number of incidents – and accidents – on the jobsite.
The Federal Aviation Regulations describes the difference between an Incident and Accident as: Accident: Means an occurence associated with the operation of an aircraft which takes place between the time any person boards the aircraft with the intention of flight and all such persons have disembarked, and in which any person suffers death or serious injury, or in which the aircraft receives substancial damage. Incident: Means an occurance other than an accident with the operation of an aircraft, which affects or could affect the safety of operations. Fatal Injury: Means any injury which results in death within 30 days of the accident. I love the FAA's defination of fatal.. so if you die in 31, it's not a fatal accident. - Neil Harrison
Accidents and Incidents Definitions (Reference: Part 1 CAR 1997)

there is not a threat to human 20difference%20between%20CAHRS%20and%20accidents%20or%20incidents.Used to convey a situation in which there has been an injury involving a http://www.Used to convey damage to property. which takes place between the time any person boards. Incident An occurrence other than an accident associated with the operation of an aircraft. It usually implies a generally negative outcome which may have been avoided or prevented had circumstances leading up to the accident been recognized. additional words also need to convey specific information.caa. No threat to human life exists. anything involved in an incident is replaceable or manageable and does not involve Loss-of-Life.Accident An occurrence associated with the operation of an aircraft.cos-mag. Whether they receive the correct meaning is up to us. Near misses fall into the incident category. only if the human factor has been isolated or removed. In addition to the words already discussed. With an accident. first aid equipment and immediate activation of the accident response team. Evaluation is normally my first response to an incident. prior to its occurrence. I know immediately that although it may be serious and costly. but you are going to spend a great deal of energy explaining to me why you refer to it as a visual and olfactory stimulation device! In an emergency the proper use and understanding of language can mean the difference between life or death. we have FIRE! I would encourage everyone (myself included) to always consider not just the meaning of a word but their perception! A Rose by any other name may indeed still be a Rose. If their is an incident involving a chemical spill. which resulted in someone being hurt. every word we use conveys a meaning to the person receiving the information. Although the same elements of response mentioned above may still be required. {chance event}] . but no one was hurt. often with lack of intention or necessity. Choose your words carefully! Bob With an incident. and acted upon. the work SPILL should be used rather than trying to parse the meaning of Accident OR Incident. As professionals. Incident . Reserving Accident to denote injuries helps save time! If I hear "Johnny has been involved in an accident" the word Accident triggers an immediate response plan involving first aid members. Colin Korney is the project safety coordinator at Graham Industrial Services Limited based in Saskatoon. http://www.htm Accident .co. the degree of severity is much higher. the aircraft with the intention of flight until such time as all such persons have disembarked.html Accident An accident or mishap is an unforeseen and unplanned event or circumstance. which affects or could affect the safety of aircraft operations.safetyxchange. the degree of severity is high with direct or indirect human involvement: someone or something caused the accident. Inc. It can be reasoned that all accidents are preventable. http://www. This term supersedes the normal delay involved in evaluating the situation to determine what actually happened. during which a person is fatally or seriously injured. Director OSHA Compliance & Education Vanguard Environmental. accident n 1: a mishap. We do not have incidents involving fire. You can e-mail him at colinko@graham. the aircraft sustains damage or structural failure. especially one causing injury or death 2: anything that happens by chance without an apparent cause [syn: {fortuity}.com/Safety/Safety-Stories/Occurrence-incident-accident-Can-you-spot-thedifference.

incidence. freak accident. ill hap. pr. of accidere to happen. [1913 Webster] Thou cam'st not to thy place by accident: It is the very place God meant for thee. eventuality. continuity. crack-up. complication. FIPS 225) Location: 39. an attribute. (Log. [1913 Webster] 4. affair. collateral. mischance. catastrophe. contretemps. [1913 Webster] Note: Accident. eventuation. circumstance. L. Literally. (Gram. materialization. plan. "labor problems incidental to a rapid expansion". chance. happenstance. condition. occasion. extra. other. fate. falling action. an accidental or nonessential. [1913 Webster] This accident. hap. or such unforeseen. extraordinary. argument. fortuity. lucky shot. device. mood.] --Chaucer. color. as. [1913 Webster] Of moving accidents by flood and field. Mahaffy. luck. occurrence. smashup. architectonics. a mishap. appendage. adventure. architecture. fr. mere chance. --Shak. commotion. event. addendum. happening. recognition. [F. juncture. staggering blow. smash. addition. auxiliary. not-self. "confusion incidental to a quick change" [syn: {incidental}] [ant: {basic}] n 1: a single distinct event 2: a public disturbance. sudden. gimmick. coming to be. appurtenance. p.62694 N. chance. Add a comparison Incident incident adj 1: falling or striking on something 2: (sometimes followed by `to') minor or casual or subordinate in significance or nature or occurring as a chance concomitant or consequence. pileup. MD (town. a befalling. --J. proceeding. softness. as whiteness in paper. [1913 Webster] 5. contingency. fact. -dentis. conjuncture. atmosphere. experience. episode. a casualty. nonessential. 0. --Trench. P. tragedy. long odds. often. (Her. mishap. contingency. contingent. beauty is an accident.] 1. calamity. an event that takes place without one's foresight or expectation. background. case. secondary. as gender. [1913 Webster] Accident. mythos. fracas. movement. happening. misfortune. unessential. shock. subsidiary. nasty blow. blunder. long shot. ad + cadere to fall. extraneous interference as is out of the range of ordinary calculation. motif. kismet. "the police investigated an incident at the bus station" 77 Moby Thesaurus words for "incident": action. serendipity. event. particular. mistake.) (a) A property or quality of a thing which is not essential to it. contrivance. fluke. plot. accidental. [Obs. catastrophe. [1913 Webster] 3. shipwreck. line.3 sq km (land). misadventure. supplement. incidental. fortune. Unusual appearance or effect. inessential. . hap. blow. or relation. disaster. hazard. contingency. denouement. collision.) A point or mark which may be retained or omitted in a coat of arms. and unexpected event. design. {Case}. accidens. disturbance. casualty. do. [1913 Webster] 2. cataclysm. destiny. but not essential to it. superaddition. an undesigned. to die by an accident. wreck Accident \Ac"ci*dent\. anagnorisis. as. [1913 Webster] 6. n. "extra duties incidental to the job". in Law. See {Cadence}. 79. adjunct. matter of fact. An inevitable occurrence due to the action of immutable natural laws. number. phenomenon. crash. fact. accident. development.) A property attached to a word. is equivalent to casus. realization. n. happenstance. local color. Any accidental property. angle. grief.77 Moby Thesaurus words for "accident": accessary. reality. adventure. (b) A quality or attribute in distinction from the substance. fable. of Athens being situated some miles from the sea. chance hit. "incidental expenses". peripeteia.0 sq km (water) Zip code(s): 21520 ACCIDENT. "the road will bring other incidental advantages". accessory. as sweetness. characterization. as I call it.32088 W Population (1990): 349 (155 housing units) Area: 1. an undesigned and unforeseen occurrence of an afflictive or unfortunate character. eventuality.

[1913 Webster] All chances incident to man's frail life. --Hooker. befalling. contingency.g. an accidental or subordinate action or event. not in connection with the main design. damage to or loss of property. fact. slant. accident. [1913 Webster] http://whatis. no incident. called the principal. topic. tone. which. hence. so likewise men's rarer incident necessities and utilities should be with special equity considered. whom. a proposition subordinate to another. or appertaining to. All staff are required to report accidents. That which happens aside from the main design. naturally happening or appertaining. --Milton. However the definition of an incident is wider in that it also includes dangerous occurrences and near misses. [1913 Webster] 4. near misses and incidents involving staff. chance. not according to expectation. pr. pref. passing with. adventure. incident. Accident forms are available from:   Reception Areas The Health and Safety Officer . (Law) Dependent upon. [1913 Webster] {Incident proposition} (Logic). what work was going on. injury. or damage . Liable to happen.thedifferencebetween. a. [1913 Webster] Incident \In"ci*dent\. another thing. and introduced by who. fortuitous. [1913 Webster] 2. Watts. --I. students. dangerous occurrences and ‘near -miss situations’ that they are involved in to their immediate supervisor or Head of Department. All accidents are incidents. in a play but must be of use to carry on the main design. set-to. story. whose. apt to occur. upset Incident \In"ci*dent\. Syn: Circumstance. scene. structure. event. overcame Pompey. F. Julius. fatality or damage. plant and materials Incident – an incident is the sequence of events or actions that produces that accident. illness.. subject. occurrence.but had the potential to do so. as. as a ray of light upon a reflecting surface. F. the person thematic development. --Tomlins. not in the usual course of things. [1913 Webster] 3. casualty. subplot. That which falls out or takes place. [1913 Webster] The studies incident to his profession. switch.] 1. etc. scheme. [L. [1913 Webster] 3. -entis. e. whose surname was C[ae]sar. incident. Accident. casual. [1913 Webster] No person. secondary plot. Falling or striking upon. to-do. or depending on. p. [1913 Webster] As the ordinary course of common affairs is disposed of by general laws. incidens. Accident – an accident can be described as an unplanned event or action that results in undesired consequences. Incident & Near Miss Reporting All accidents. The details of the accident. See {Cadence}. A near miss is an unplanned event that did not result in injury. twist. Only a fortunate break in the chain of events prevented an injury. turn of events. skirmish. another. Coming or happening accidentally. damage to the environment. casualty. -Dryden.] [1913 Webster] 1. in. called the principal. (Law) Something appertaining to. [1913 Webster] 2. n. on + cadere to fall: cf. etc are all filled in giving as much explanation as possible as to the cause of the accident.rising action. & of incidere to fall into or upon. [Cf. contractors and visitors must be notified to the Safety Office on the day of the occurrence or as soon as is practicable thereafter using an official accident report form. an event. See {Event}. ill health. --Milward.

injury. 1. materials or the environment or a loss of business opportunity‖.5 Incidents .―any incident that has a high potential to cause death or serious injury‖ and are specified by the Reporting of Incidents.htm 1. ―any event. Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations 1995.ul. but didn?t this round. Anything untoward such as threatening behaviour. plant. materials or the environment or a loss of business opportunity‖. would be classed as a ―near-miss‖ incident. under slightly different circumstances (the person standing nearer to the contact point) the person may have been injured.mic. or damage or loss to property.2 Near miss A near miss can be defined as. which caused injury to a person underneath. physical violence. 1.http://www. given a slight shift in time or distance. INCIDENT — an incident is an may have resulted in injury or ill health of people. 1. leaks.4 Environmental incidents and miscellaneous incidents. undesired event that hinders completion of a task and may cause injury or other px ACCIDENT — an undesired event or sequence of events causing injury. would be classed as an accident.3 Dangerous occurrence A dangerous occurrence can be defined as. illhealth or damage easily could have occurred. odours Health and the Environment. Example: A builder dropping a brick from a height. http://nonprofitrisk. which under slightly different circumstances. should also be reported. Example: A builder dropping a brick from a height. ill-health or property damage. which just missed a person standing underneath. or damage or loss to property. plant. These may have underlying implications that impact on Safety. This incident did not cause an injury to a person but. work related road traffic accident. NEAR MISS — near misses describe incidents where.1 An accident The Health and Safety Executive define an accident as ―any unplanned event that resulted in injury or ill health of people. 1.

1 .html .4 Cardiff University OSHEU – Occupational Health and Environment Unit http://www.For the purpose of this procedure. where the term ‗Incident‘ appears. this incorporates elements from 1.