The Difference Between Workplace Incidents And Workplace Accidents?


With so much of our lives spent working, from the office to construction sites, we must understand the significance of health and safety in the workplace. Safety is an essential factor for all businesses, with a joint effort between employers, employees, and contractors to ensure everyone’s well-being.

Suppose you’re a casual observer of workplace safety literature. In that case, the terms “accident” and “incident” can seem interchangeable. Still, you may have also noticed that occupational safety and health professionals use the terms differently than you might in day-to-day conversation.

In this article, we will examine the differences between accidents and incidents in a workplace and the steps we can take to minimize them. 


What Is an Accident?

First, let’s define what we mean by accident. An accident is an unintentional event that happens suddenly and leads to injury without one’s expectation or foresight. Often it causes harm to people or damage to property. However, it doesn’t have to be serious to be considered an accident. Accidents can be as minor as a bump on the head due to tripping or as significant as a severe chemical burn.

There are several reasons that accidents can happen in the workplace:

  • A piece of machinery or equipment failing
  • Not correctly training staff on how to use machinery or equipment 
  • Inadequate supervision
  • Deficient workplace conditions
  • Neglecting to follow safety guidelines


What Is an Incident?

An incident is an unplanned event that doesn’t result in injury but does cause property damage or has enough significant risk to merit recording. Examples of this are fires, explosions, spills, etc. You should note that incidents like workplace injuries still need to be reported to the workplace supervisor. 


The Difference Between Accidents and Incidents

There’s a definite difference between an accident and an incident. An accident is unplanned, unpredictable, and usually results in physical injuries and, sometimes, property damage. An incident is like an accident. However, no injuries or individual damage are involved.

In nearly all situations, an accident is a type of incident – a subset. So, all accidents are incidents, but not all incidents are accidents. That is why the terms are interchangeable at times.



Workplace incidents are any unfavorable events that cause interference in daily work activities. Incidents that almost cause an injury or fatality are known as near misses, but incidents that result in an injury or tragically a fatality are called accidents. Reducing workplace accidents requires acknowledging every incident, implementing proper training, improving contradictory cultures, altering procedures, and installing creative leaders.

In conclusion, it doesn’t matter if you call it an incident or an accident; you still need to manage it and learn from your discoveries. Remember, some incidents are just a pre-emptive warning, and something that happened once with luckily minor consequences can happen again with significant consequences in less ideal circumstances.

Therefore, regardless of the type of event, the employer should report it to the authorities in charge. They should add as many facts as possible about the incident, the people and equipment involved, and, of course, the working conditions at the time of the incident. All of this leads to improved health & safety measures and, hopefully, a drastic reduction in these incidents, accidents, and near-misses.