Incident under-reporting in schools – a worrying trend

There seems to be a high level of incident under-reporting in schools. Many believe it will be used against them so if they can avoid it, all the better. They forget that if a child goes home with an unexplained injury, no parent will keep quiet about it. “What happened to my child?”

Picture this!

Sharon goes to pick her daughter from school but on getting there, she finds that her daughter Sandra has a swollen bruised lip. No one is able to tell her what happened. Seems they are all pretending and have even insinuated that she was brought into school with the lip swollen.

All was well when her mum dropped her off in the morning. Gbemi her daughter’s best friend and a few other kids are quick to tell her, that a fellow student (Emmanuel) had punched her in the face during break time while on the playground.

Sandra had cried and reported to her teacher during break but her teacher just said “sorry” and flogged hell out of Emmanuel.

The minute her mum heard this tale, all hell broke loose. Why didn’t anyone call her to notify her? Why are all the teachers including management claiming not to have any clue as to what went down? Did she bleed profusely? What kind of first aid was administered if any? Was this incident recorded and reported? Clearly not – since even the teacher tried to deny what happened.

The problem?

Incidents like this are common in schools. Many schools are clueless about what to do in such situations. They do not know they have to record all incidents be it injuries, near misses or observations so we are faced with lots of hearsay which more often than not does no good for schools. They have no idea that reporting doesn’t amount to blame or legal actions taken against them but not reporting could.

Most schools I have been to do not have a way of reporting or recording injuries and accidents that take place in the school. This is them calling for trouble.

Every school must have an incident reporting policy. It is important for all incidents and dangerous occurrences to be reported and recorded. The law requires this as well as the reputation of your business. If you have an incident reporting policy, parents have peace of mind knowing their children are safe and will be well taken care of if anything happens or if they get hurt.

For example, it can be reported immediately and no later than 2 hours after the accident occurred. It should be recorded as soon as possible when the details are still fresh in the mind of the witnesses.  It must be recorded. The details should then be shared with parents or guardian preferably by email after a phone call has been done to inform parents of the outcome. Irrespective of how severe it is, no school should hide the details from parents.

The completed incident form should then be stored securely and can be referred to when the need arises. It could even save the school from trouble if they have recorded evidence of what transpired. For credibility, a witness must verify the report and sign.

When checking around for a school, ensure this is in place! A safety conscious school won’t joke with the health of their students and their reputation.

So what is an incident report?

An incident report is a record of injuries, accidents, incidents, a near miss or an observation. The main purpose of an incident report is to document the details of an occurrence. This information is usually useful in identifying trends, identifying training needs and for insurance/compensation needs. Incidents recorded should not be restricted to students only. Remember schools are workplaces and your staff should get the same care as your pupils.

Your incident report should include the following:

1. State what you are reporting.

For example, Lost Time, Illness, First Aid, No injury, Near Miss or an Observation.

Lost time is any injury that requires the injured to spend time away from school or led to/will lead to admission in the hospital.

A near miss, is also called a close call because “it nearly happened” and could have resulted in an injury, disability or even fatality. For example, a stone as thrown at a child and it nearly hit the child. It is possible the stone fell on the floor or broke a window.

An observation is something you noticed that goes against a child or teacher’s Health, Safety and Wellbeing. For example, a child came to school with marks on their body or ill on arrival.

2. Details of person injured or involved

Such as name, class (if a student), sex and date of birth

3. Incident/Accident Details

Such as Date, time, location, witnesses (if any)

4. Detailed description of the event/occurrence

  1. State is the incident / occurrence was due to an unsafe act (action or failure to act, activity) or an unsafe condition (equipment, furniture or weather)?
  2. If first aid is administered or the incident results in lost time, state
  3. Type of injury sustained
  4. Cause of lost time/ injury or first aid
  5. Was medical treatment necessary?

5. Names, Signatures & Date

You can also include a section for name and signature of person filling the report, the witnesses’ name and signature and name and signature of his/her supervisor. Date of all signature must also be included. Depending on your school policy, you might have to give a copy of this report to the child’s parent/guardian – although sending an email is usually enough unless of course the parents asks for it. Surely you have nothing to hide so please let them have it.

Want to know what else you need to get done in your school pertaining to safety? Read this detailed post for pointers.

#BeHSEWise #SafeSchools