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How to deal with adverse events, incidents, errors and near-misses in care settings


This page is designed to answer the following questions:

NOTE: This page has been quality assured for 2023 as per our Quality Assurance policy.

Although every care should be taken to ensure the safety of yourself and others in the workplace, sometimes mistakes do occur. Such errors can be categorised as adverse events, incidents, errors and near-misses.


What are adverse events, incidents, errors and near-misses?

As a care worker, it is your duty to ensure that adverse events, incidents, errors and near-misses are documented and reported correctly. To do this you will need to be able to understand what each of these terms means so that you are able to recognise them.


Adverse events are when actions are taken (or not taken) that lead to unintentional harm being caused that could have been prevented.

Incidents are specific negative events that cause harm or damage to an individual or organisation.


Errors are when something that should have been done was either not done or wasn’t done correctly.

Near misses are when an action could have resulted in an individual being harmed but was fortunately avoided.


What to do in relation to adverse events, incidents, errors and near misses

Immediately following an adverse event, incident, error or near-miss you should attend to the needs of the individuals involved. This may be administering first aid or calling emergency services or simply chatting with them to ensure they are okay.


You should then inform your manager and complete the relevant paperwork. Your employer should provide you with forms for recording what has happened. This may be known as an incident form, accident form or something similar.

You should be objective when you record what has happened, ensuring that you write facts and not your views, opinions or feelings. It should be as accurate and detailed as possible and signed and dated by yourself. You should also ensure that your handwriting is legible. You should remain objective and not attempt to blame anyone for what has happened.


Legislation and agreed ways of working

Recording and reporting adverse events, incidents, errors and near misses is a legal requirement. Your employer will have agreed ways of working that explain how you should report these events in the form of policies and procedures – you must ensure that you are familiar with the process.


Legislation that relates to this includes:

  • The Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974
  • The Management of Health and Safety Regulations 1999
  • The Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations 2013 (RIDDOR)
  • The Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 2002 (COSHH)
  • The Provisions and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 (PUWER)
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