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Difference Between an Accident and an Incident

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In the world of safety, there is a distinction between an accident and an incident.

The main difference between an accident and an incident is that an accident results in injuries or damage to property, while an incident is any unplanned event that does not result in injury or damage.

Now that we've established the difference between these two terms, let's take a closer look at each in more detail. 

Accident or Incident: Definition

An accident is defined as "an unplanned event that results in safety or environmental consequences." On the other hand, an incident is defined as "an unplanned event that does not result in safety or environmental consequences." So, what's the difference between these two definitions? 

There was a collision between two cars, people were injured. This is an accident.

The key distinction lies in the word "consequences." An accident, by definition, results in negative consequences (e.g., injuries, environmental damage), while an incident does not. This doesn't mean that incidents can't have negative effects—they can. However, negative consequences are not inherent to the definition of an incident. 

The car broke, and no one is hurt. This is an incident.

For example, let's say you're working with a piece of machinery that suddenly breaks down. This unexpected event would be classified as an incident. Now, let's say that you sustained injuries due to this incident. In this case, you would have had an accident—an unplanned event that resulted in negative consequences (i.e., your injuries). 

Accidents Vs Incidents: Implications

From a safety standpoint, it's important to make the distinction between accidents and incidents because they require different types of responses. An accident requires immediate attention to mitigate the consequences (e.g., provide first aid to injured workers). In contrast, an incident requires investigation to prevent it from happening again in the future (e.g., determine what caused the machinery to break down). 

Accidents Vs Incidents: Prevention

Effective risk management is the best way to prevent accidents and incidents. Risk management involves:

  • Assessing the risks associated with a particular activity or process.
  • Identifying potential hazards.
  • Implementing measures to reduce the likelihood of an accident or incident.

By taking proactive steps to manage risks, companies can reduce the number of accidents and incidents within their organizations. Ultimately, understanding the difference between an accident and an incident is key to developing a successful safety program. By knowing the definitions of these terms and how they should be handled, companies can better protect their workers and promptly address potential hazards.

Frequently Asked Questions

How can I prevent accidents in the workplace?

One of the best ways to prevent workplace accidents is to ensure that all employees are properly trained in safety protocols. Employers should create and regularly review a comprehensive safety policy and ensure that all staff is familiar with it. Additionally, employers should provide regular safety training sessions for their employees, especially those working with heavy machinery or hazardous materials.

What should I do if I have an accident at work?

If you have an accident at work, it is important to take appropriate steps to mitigate the impact of the accident. Immediately after a workplace accident, report it to your supervisor or employer as soon as possible. Depending on your job and working environment, there could be specific procedures in place for dealing with accidents; if this is the case, follow them. Seek medical attention if necessary and document any symptoms or injuries that you experience after the accident.

What is the main cause of accidents?

The main cause of accidents is human error. Humans are fallible, and mistakes can be made in many situations, including driving or operating machinery, leading to potential dangers or hazards.


In summary, the key difference between an accident and an incident is that an accident always results in negative consequences while an incident does not necessarily have any negative consequences associated with it. It's important to make this distinction because accidents and incidents require different responses from a safety standpoint.

Remember: if there are any negative consequences associated with an event (e.g., injuries, environmental damage), then it's classified as an accident; if there are no negative consequences associated with it, then it's classified as an incident.

Feel free to comment and discuss about the article in the comment space below if you have any information or remarks to add. If you think we made a mistake, you can also report it there.
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About the Author: Nicolas Seignette

Nicolas Seignette, who holds a scientific baccalaureate, began his studies in mathematics and computer science applied to human and social sciences (MIASHS). He then continued his university studies with a DEUST WMI (Webmaster and Internet professions) at the University of Limoges before finishing his course with a professional license specialized in the IT professions. On 10Differences, he is in charge of the research and the writing of the articles concerning technology, sciences and mathematics.
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