Abstract Introduction The aim of this study was to examine whether the introduction of an incident reporting scheme with feedback in two industrial plants had an effect on the number of major incidents. Method An intervention design with measurements before the implementation of the incident reporting scheme and two years later was used to examine the relationship between incident rates, safety climate, the willingness to report incidents and perceived management commitment to safety. Results The results showed that a successful implementation of an incident reporting scheme was followed by a decline in the incidence of major incidents at a Danish metal plant. A key factor in implementing the scheme was top management commitment, which was lacking at another plant, where the implementation of a similar scheme failed. Conclusion Although the study shows some encouraging results concerning the use of incident reporting schemes to prevent occupational accidents, the possibility to draw causal conclusions is limited in the present study, and further studies are needed before the effectiveness of such schemes can be evaluated with certainty.