Difference between incident and accident In tabular form

Incident and accident are close terms, to the point that they are often confused. However, there are differences: an incident is an event that may or may not cause damage; while an accident is an event that generates material and human damage of varying severity. Incident and Accident

Incident Accident
Definition It is a potentially harmful event. That is, it does not cause material or human damage It is an event that, unexpectedly or planned, generates harmful or serious effects on things and people.
Examples A liquid that can make you slip, a ladder in bad use, a chair that is not suitable for postures, etc. The person actually fell with the liquid, the limestone in poor condition collapsed and the chair generated lumbar pain in those who used it.


While we are alive, there are many things that can happen to us or that can happen in our environment; some things affect us directly and others not so much.

In this sense, it is common to hear people talking about accidents and incidents, but what is the difference between accident and incident? If you still don’t know it, keep reading and find out.

What is an Accident? Incident and Accident

This word has a negative implication and almost always involves loss of life or material goods. An accident is a mishap, an unforeseen event or circumstance that occurs, bringing negative results.

In spite of everything, there are exceptional cases in which an accident has led or resulted in positive things; for example, some inventions or historical discoveries occurred in this way. Cellophane, post-it notes, the microwave oven, viagra… are some of the most famous discoveries and inventions that were the result of accidents.

What is an Incident? Incident and Accident

On the other hand, an incident is something that happens and that can turn out to be positive or negative. Generally it is something dependent or subordinate to something that happens and that has greater importance.

The word incident is often used to refer to events that occur not unexpectedly (as in the case of accidents), but as a result of decisions that were made voluntarily and consciously.

Definition of work accident Incident and Accident

The definition of work accident and work incident will allow us to see even more clearly the difference between accident and incident.

To talk about what a work accident is, we turn to the definition given by the General Social Security Law (LGSS) , which reads as follows : “A work accident is understood to be any bodily injury that the worker suffers on occasion or due to consequence of the work carried out for someone else ” .

Likewise, article 156 of the LGSS details in which cases what is considered a work accident, which is useful to distinguish different types of work accidents :

  • The accident suffered by the worker while going to or returning from work, also known as an in itinere accident .
  • Accidents suffered by the employee as a result of holding elective union positions. It is also considered a work accident if it occurs when going to or returning from the place where the functions of said positions are carried out.
  • The accident that occurs as a result of the tasks performed by the worker either when complying with the employer’s orders, or spontaneously in pursuit of the proper functioning of the company.
  • Accidents that happen in rescue acts, as long as they have some connection to work.

Likewise, for the General Law of Social Security, the following are considered work accidents:

  • Diseases contracted by the worker as a result of the performance of his work.
  • Diseases that the worker had previously suffered and that are aggravated as a result of a work accident.
  • Diseases that constitute complications of the pathological process determined by the work accident itself.

Non-occupational accident

In the same way, the regulations explain that they will NOT be considered an accident at work :

  • Accidents that are not related to the work carried out when the accident occurred.
  • Accidents that are due to fraud or reckless negligence of the worker.

Definition of work incident

To define what a workplace incident is, we will use the OHSAS 18001 standard, which establishes the requirements for an Occupational Health and Safety Management System (OSH) .

In the OHSAS 18001: 2007 standard, a work incident is defined as that “event or events related to the work in which damage occurs or could have occurred, or deterioration of health (regardless of severity), or a fatality”.

An accident is an incident that has resulted in injury, poor health or fatality

Example of an accident at work

According to data from the Ministry of Labor, in 2017 there were about 30,000 work accidents in Spain . Most of the accidents at work (21,504) occurred during the working day. The rest (7,871) were commuting accidents.

An example of a workplace accident would be if the worker falls from a scaffold and suffers a broken leg. Or, for example, if the worker suffers an injury when hitting a door or an office furniture.

Example of a work incident

The work incident is a sudden event that takes place in the workplace and, representing a potential danger, can lead to an accident at work. An incident represents, on the other hand, an opportunity to improve the safety of a company and prevent future accidents.

A typical example of a workplace incident is when some liquid is spilled on the office floor that can cause a worker to slip.

Examples of sentences in which this word is used:

  1. Yesterday two people were killed in separate incidents.
  2. Many of these incidents are reported.
  3. The attack caused an international incident.

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