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Near Miss: The Undervalued Key to Workplace Safety

Posted in: Accident Prevention | Posted by Rebecca Ingram on October 23, 2017

It happens all the time, whether we are aware of it or not. It affects our behaviour, whether we are aware of it or not. It changes the way we do things, whether we are aware of it or not. It happens when we least expect it and even when we think we are prepared – it is a ‘near miss’.

What is a ‘Near Miss’?

Loosely defined, a ‘near miss’ is a close call, an unplanned event that did not result in injury, illness, or damage, but had the potential to do so – an incident, that under other circumstances, could have resulted in a less than favourable outcome but did not.

Why Near Miss reporting is important to the workplace safety?

If everything turned out okay why bother talking about it, reporting it, or investigating it? The reality is that a ‘near miss’ holds valuable information that can improve the safety culture of an organization.

Although the work of American industrial safety pioneer, H. W. Henrich, has been challenged in recent years, the foundation of his theory still has validity. Heinrich’s Law states that in a workplace, for every accident that causes a major injury, there are 29 accidents that cause minor injuries and 300 accidents that cause no injuries.  

The actual numbers that Henrich used may not be accurate but because many accidents share common root causes, addressing more commonplace or ‘near miss’ accidents that do not result in injuries can help prevent accidents that do. Thus, by reporting, investigating, and analyzing ‘near misses’, then implementing recommended corrections, or eliminations of workplace hazards, you can reduce the risk of accident or injury.

‘Near Miss’ reporting may be the most important tool in a Health & Safety Management System. It can:

  • Help identify potential workplace hazards
  • Provide learning opportunities
  • Improve communication and team building
  • Prevent future incidents
  • Initiate reviews and reminders of safety policies and procedures

Why aren’t ‘Near Miss’ incidents reported?

Although ‘near miss’ incidents provide important and beneficial information for the safety culture of a workplace, there is some reluctance by workers to report these incidents. Some of the most common barriers to reporting ‘near misses’ are, but not limited to:  

  • Fear – of repercussion, or blame
  • Embarrassment or loss of reputation
  • Difficulty in reporting
  • Peer pressure to keep safety records
  • Lack of interest by management

How to encourage ‘Near Miss’ reporting?

The value of ‘near miss’ reporting is undeniable but without the cooperation, and compliance, of those involved to file reports, a ‘near miss’ becomes opportunity lost. The following are some suggestions that may encourage ‘near miss’ reporting:

Employee Involvement – the key to successful ‘near miss’ reporting is to get everyone on board including senior management and supervisors. If everyone in the organization sees the value in reporting near misses and participates in correcting or eliminating workplace hazards, then everyone benefits.

Ease of Reporting – keep reporting forms simple, easy to fill out, and easy to use. The more complicated and involved the reporting system is, the less likely it is to be used.

Anonymity – allowing ‘near misses’ to be reported anonymously can encourage employees to report incidents without fear of repercussions from management or co-workers. It can allow open, constructive discussion that addresses the problem without finger pointing and blame.

Non-punitive – ensure and reassure employees that reporting a ‘near miss’ does not come with any negative repercussions or penalties. Reporting a ‘near miss’ should be seen as a positive contribution to improving workplace safety for the entire organization

Establish Incentives – rather than setting goals for and rewarding ‘accident-free’ periods – which can discourage reporting of ‘near misses’, create incentives for identifying and correcting workplace hazards. A Monday morning coffee klatch, round table discussion, or lunchbox meeting to discuss near misses; what happened, what went wrong, how could it be prevented can help promote a safety culture where everyone feels involved and responsible. Offering company recognition, gift cards, management provided lunch, or coffee and donuts.

Broadcast ‘Near Miss’ Incidents – sharing the details of, investigations into and corrective measures taken following a ‘near miss’ can demonstrate how workplace safety is improving and taken seriously. Show that ‘near miss’ reporting is a valued part of the organization.

If you would like further information on the value of ‘near miss’ reporting, how to encourage ‘near misses’ to be reported or how to develop a ‘near miss’ reporting system, you can contact us directly at BCL.Calgary@bclconsulting.ca, BCL.Edmonton@bclconsulting.ca, by phone, at 1-844-377-9545 or you can connect with us on Facebook ,Twitter , or LinkedIn.

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