Understanding – and avoiding – near misses
A roofing contractor forgoes fall protection because he finds it uncomfortable. Later that day, he slips and nearly falls off the roof of the two-story house he is working on.
A marketing manager is reading her smartphone as she walks down the hall at her office and almost collides with a co-worker.
Although one case is more extreme than the other, both are examples of near misses – and both are preventable situations.
“A near miss is an unplanned event that did not result in injury, illness or damage – but had the potential to do so,” according to the National Safety Council.
NSC recommends implementing a near-miss reporting system, rather than waiting for losses to occur before taking steps to prevent them from reoccurring.
“History has shown repeatedly that most loss-producing events (incidents), both serious and catastrophic, were preceded by warnings or near-miss incidents,” the council states.
These systems can help create an open culture in which workers feel responsible not only for their own safety, but also for the safety of their co-workers. Near-miss reporting systems also can help capture data for statistical analysis, and “can be considered to be a leading indicator of performance used in balance with other leading and lagging measures of performance,” NSC states.
Tips for success
For a near-miss reporting program to be successful, leadership must reinforce a culture that promotes identifying and reporting hazards, and then take action. The system needs to be non-punitive – avoiding punishment and the “blame game” – and anonymous, and reported incidents must be investigated to determine root causes.
To help increase worker engagement in near-miss reporting programs, make the process simple. Look into using incentives that encourage reporting. A good incentive program recognizes workers who report hazards. In contrast, a poor incentive is one based on a low number or rate of reported injuries.
“This type of incentive has been shown to suppress reporting and can lead to punitive actions that further undermine safety efforts,” NSC notes.
Lastly, be sure to celebrate the success of your near-miss reporting process with employees.