Preventing accidents with near miss reporting

Every day we encounter close calls. Whether it is something you nearly drop, but catch in a reflex, or a person you nearly run into, but you manage to turn away at the last moment. At the workplace these close calls, or near misses, can be symptoms of lacking safety measures. For this reason near miss reporting is important in improving a company’s safety efforts.

Near misses are situations that nearly became accidents, but no one got hurt and no damage was done. Near misses are also frequently called close calls or narrow escapes. For example a hammer that slips from someone’s hands as they are working at height. The hammer falls but lands 1 floor down without hitting the colleagues working below. Should anyone have been hit by the falling hammer we would have had a workplace accident on hand, in this example, however, we can talk of a near miss as no one got hurt.

Benefits of near miss reporting

In most countries the reporting of near miss (fall) accidents is not required by law, but there is a huge benefit to having such a reporting program within your organization. Near misses indicate that there are improvements to be made in a company’s safety efforts. Research indicates that most serious incidents were preceded by warning signs and/or near misses.

So investigating occurrences that nearly became incidents can help prevent accidents from happening in the future. With reporting a company’s health and safety practices can also be elevated to the next level. However, your workplace safety culture should be up to the task.

How to handle near miss reporting correctly

Near miss reporting is a way of voluntary safety feedback from employees. A way to discover issues that otherwise may not have been noticed by management. When a near miss occurs workers should be able to report it without feeling they will be punished for doing so. If your company safety culture does not give them a safe feeling and does not reassure them that there are no repercussions to near miss reporting, they will not report anything at all.

Another issue that can quickly thwart near miss reporting (and that’s also connected to a company’s safety culture) is blame. Near miss reports should never be used to blame or discipline workers. If corrective actions need to be taken, because someone’s behavior is unsafe, the focus point should be the behavior, not the person.

After a report is send in an investigation should take place, because knowing the cause of a near miss and taking preventative measures means preventing future incidents. You will also need to communicate to your employees what you are doing with a near miss report. Otherwise your employees will feel like they aren’t listened to and will not report any future incidents.

8 Tips for your near miss reporting system

Just because something was a close call this time does not mean that the next time won’t result in a serious accidents. For this reason we’ve put together 8 tips for your near miss reporting system. You can use these as a basis for setting up your near miss reporting program.

  1. Promote a positive view on reporting near misses.
  2. Ensure employees know there are no negative consequences to reporting a close call.
  3. Educate employees on why near miss reporting is important, the critical role they play in signaling safety issues and instructions on how to report.
  4. Establish that reporting of near misses is easy, and anonymous if necessary.
  5. Investigate near misses seriously to determine the root cause.
  6. Take corrective measures and/or preventative measures to prevent further occurrences.
  7. Communicate what actions will be taken after the near miss investigation.
  8. Continue encouraging near miss reporting and participation in health and safety.

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Just because there was a near miss this time does not mean next time won’t be a serious accident. So keep yourself on your toes regarding near misses. Promote reporting, investigate seriously and take proactive measures to prevent calamities.

Download our near miss reporting poster for more information and tips.

More information

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