Manager observing the factory floor


Near Misses: Are They Worth Investigating?

A near miss is an opportunity to improve health and safety in a workplace based on a condition or an incident with the potential for more serious consequences. Oftentimes, these incidents go unreported and are considered a close call. However, by not reporting near misses, employees are also not doing anything to prevent similar and more potentially serious incidents from occurring in the future. When near misses are reported they give the company the opportunity to identify unsafe conditions or unsafe acts in the workplace and address them, thereby resulting in a safer workplace.

What is a Near Miss Program? 

A near miss program is intended to encourage employees to report events that have already happened, but for whatever reason didn’t result in an injury or property damage. Preventing Near Misses. Near miss, reporting is key to preventing serious injuries and even fatalities. Ignoring the root causes of incidents that occur in your workplace can lead to serious injuries and even fatalities. Identifying hazards and addressing the underlying issues within your organization is essential to preventing OSHA reportable workplace accidents and keeping workers safe. According to the HW Heinrich accident pyramid, sometimes referred to as the accident triangle, for every 3,000 plus unsafe behaviors and hazards that are observed, there is typically one serious injury or fatality. This shows the importance of reporting, investigating, and documenting each incident thoroughly no matter how minor it may seem. Quite simply put, focusing on minor incidents, including near misses, can provide the means to reduce the probability of major incidents. Forget what you heard about not sweating the small stuff. The small stuff is important! Many safety activities are reactive and not proactive, and some organizations wait for losses to occur before taking steps to prevent a recurrence. Near miss incidents often precede loss-producing events that may be overlooked because there was no injury or property damage.

This is your chance to say “whew, someone could have gotten injured, what can I do to make sure that doesn’t happen?” When an organization does not have a reporting culture where employees are encouraged to report these close calls, they are missing out on opportunities to prevent incidents or loss. We know that history repeats itself, right? Well, history has repeatedly shown that the most producing loss events, both serious and catastrophic, were preceded by warnings or near miss incidences. Recognizing and reporting near-miss incidents can significantly improve worker safety and enhance an organization’s safety culture. By collecting near-miss data, it helps your company to create a culture that seeks to identify and control hazards, therefore reducing risk and potential from harm.

5 Key Elements of Effective Incident Reporting. 

A well-run near-miss program goes beyond just reporting near misses and completing reports. It should be made up of several different components. Let’s take a look at them.

  1. Leadership Commitment. Management should promote a culture of reporting with the support of all managers and supervisors, create policies and procedures that clearly explain near miss reporting, and fund the tools and resources necessary to implement a program.
  2. Employee Participation. Companies should train all employees about the importance of reporting near misses and provide them the tools to do so and furnish incentives for workers who do report incidences.
  3. Effective Reporting System. The system needs to be clearly communicated to employees and easy to use and understand and should capture all the details of the event.
  4. Investigation and Analysis. A successful investigation will identify the root cause of the incident and pinpoint weaknesses and areas of exposure in the current system.
  5. Corrective Action and Communication. If the investigation identifies necessary hazard controls, those should be implemented, and any lessons learned from the incident should be communicated to employees.

Unsplash Photo by Jase Bloor

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