W5 Accident Reporting

By Rob Chernish
Last updated: December 26, 2014
Key Takeaways

W5 accident reporting model.

When it comes to W5 safety, it is important to know how to work and think in a safe manner, but it is also important to take control and keep calm in the event of an accident. Since some companies do not have strict accident reporting guidelines, it is a good idea to report the details using the W5 principle.



The first thing you need to do is document who was involved in the accident. All the names of the people who are involved in the accident should be listed, as well as the various companies and contractors they represent if it occured in a busy area. This information will automatically get the safety team and first responders pointed in the right direction, as well as add accountability to involved parties in the event that discrepancies arise.


What is the nature of the accident? Is it environmental? Is it physical? Is it mechanical? What happened exactly? Remember, an accident can occur without anyone being injured. In the event of an oil spill, which can be a devastating environmental accident, the same reporting guidelines should be followed as if a human was injured. Remember to be as thorough as possible when documenting the situation and record as many details as possible.



Why did the accident happen? If someone was injured, what was the mechanism of injury? Was there mischief involved? Were unsafe practices or shortcuts being used? In this area, all the contributing factors to the accident should be listed, so a thorough analysis can be conducted. This means collecting information regarding what happened leading up to the accident.


Where did the accident occur? Document as many relevant details as possible including the worksite ID, Legal Land Description, and any other pertinent information that can be used to locate the scene of the accident. If possible, record the nearest intersection.


This is one of the most important areas, and also one of the most complex because it involves many areas of potential classification such as:

  • What time did the accident happen?

  • Was it day or night?

  • What season was it?

  • When it happened, were there any other workers in the area?

There are plenty of temporal categories that help safety people classify when an incident occurred. Determining when accidents are more likely to happen allows for extra precautions to be taken.


The how and why portions of the W5 model are interrelated. How the accident happened refers to the superficial reasons for the incident. How did the accident happen, rather than why the accident happened. This includes the sequence of events, the events that lead up to the What or accident. This information will also help to guide the safety team to make effective decisions in first response.

Preparing the Report

If you are in a rush and need to explain the situation quickly and precisely, narrow your explanation down to How and Why. These two concepts can help provide a more concise picture of an accident because they include some combined factors such as intent and motivation. Since it is easy to scientifically and objectively understand how something could happen, it is important to understand why it happened and look for any logical connections such as the frequency of employees in the area. Depending on the job, a higher frequency of employee presence could cause an accident due to wear and tear.

While recording information using the W5 method may seem like a logical idea, many people do not consider taking notes and accurately documenting situations to ensure there is a well-rounded accident report. With this information, anyone in the office or in the field, can effectively document an accident and provide many of the relevant details that are necessary for clear and concise follow-up investigations.

It is also important to remember to remove yourself from any area where you are in immediate danger, and if the accident poses a threat, then make sure to get to a safe zone before completing your accident report. Remember, for a strong, well-documented, and more realistic report, it is important to complete your accident safety report as soon as possible.

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Written by Rob Chernish

Rob Chernish
A writer from Canada with firsthand experience in Oil, Gas, Mining, and environmental safety.

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