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Safe Heritage

Implementing incident registration

Registering incidents is part of a professional risk management of a cultural heritage institution. To establish what (almost) went wrong can give valuable insight as to the functioning of the organisation. 

Gaining insight into incidents requires a good approach, and support within the organisation. What is needed to properly implement incident registration and embed within the organisation?

Here is a five-step process:

1. Ensure commitment of management

Ask the management to agree to record incidents. In a memo, the following may provide clarity:

  • The usefulness and necessity of incident registration: why register incidents? What does the management gain from this?
  • Required investment: how much manpower, time and additional work is needed for incident recording?
  • Preconditions: What is needed to make the incident registration a success?

2. Align the organisation in incident organisation

Appoint a "coordinator incident registration'. He or she manages the registration of the incidents, collects information on incidents and ensures the recording, analysis and reporting. The coordinator incident registration also reports to management.

Appoint employees who contribute to the registration. That contribution may consist of providing information about incidents and/or the actual recording of the incidents. How many employees are needed depends on the size of the organisation. If possible, choose employees from different disciplines. This creates broader support within the organisation.

Create a job description for the staff involved that clearly describes what is expected of them in this process.

3. Set up a procedure 'incident registration'

Define the term "incident" and "near-incident", and describe examples. Make sure employees know what to look for. The greater the awareness, the more incidents are reported.

Create a flow chart on how the reporting of incidents should take place within the organisation. Use as many existing communication structures as possible. For example:

  • Reports go straight to the reception desk, which passes them on to the coordinator;
  • Reports go to their own head of department, which passes them on to the coordinator;
  •  Reports go directly to the coordinator.

Make agreements on the use of the information in the registry. For example:

  • Information will not be used for procedures that may lead to the taking of action against individual employees;
  • Information is stripped from data that enables tracing back to employees;
  • Information is never provided to third parties.

Create a consultative structure for the registration team. For example, arrange a quarterly meeting to discuss incidents. Is there no registration team, but only a coordinator? Provide periodic consultations between the coordinator and his or her manager(s).

4. Ensure proper communication

Create a communication plan for the implementation of incident registration. Describe which employees with which communication actions and communication tools will be informed. Provide a clear and realistic planning, and define who is responsible for each communication action.

Make sure that the coordinator has the role of an ambassador. He or she will have to introduce the subject of incident registration to the staff and keep it to their attention. It is also important that the coordinator proactively keeps in contact with managers and staff to gather information about (near) incidents.

Inform all employees in the organisation regularly on the progress of the incident registration. What recently (almost) went wrong? What has been done? Clarity about such matters increases the involvement of employees on the subject. Learning from incidents can prevent further incidents. Communicate with the internal communication of the organisation as much as possible: work meetings, intranet and/or newsletter.

5. Start with the incident registration

Some considerations:

  • There is no one right way to set up a procedure for incident registration. Every organisation has its own structure and culture; it is important to align the procedure with these known structures. Ensure that incident recording becomes part of the quality control of the organisation.
  • Remember that embedding incident recording within the organisation costs time. Constant attention and guidance are necessary.
  • When one sole employee is responsible for the incident registration, this comes with a risk. If he or she is absent for a long time, registration can come to a standstill. Therefore, always make sure beforehand that someone else is second in command, not during the absence of the coordinator. A clear communication procedure is crucial for a successful incident registration. A lack thereof can result in a slow start and disinterest from employees. In short: communicate usefulness and necessity, convince and create awareness.