What is a “near-miss”? This is an unplanned event that did not result in an injury or property damage but had the potential to do so. Any slight difference in the time or position could well have resulted in some element of damage or injury.

Identifying and investigating near-misses is a key element in finding and controlling risks before workers are injured. The information gathered after the occurrence of any near-miss is evaluated to determine root causes and hazard mitigation strategies.

Recognising and reporting near-miss incidents can significantly improve worker safety and enhance the safety culture of the organisation.

How do we report a near-miss?

Everyone within your organisation is responsible for reporting any near-misses. To ensure that reporting near-misses is expected and that all employees understand the process, instructions must appear within your health and safety policy and procedures. It’s vital that you and your senior managers all enforce and support the reporting procedure so that staff members follow suit.

Information to be noted on an Incident Report Form includes:

  • The time and date of the incident.
  • Where the incident occurred.
  • The activities carried immediately prior to the incident.
  • The type of incident.
  • Details about what happened.
  • The afflicted person(s) personal details.

Why would workers choose not to report a near-miss?

There are a few reasons why employees don’t report near-miss…

  • Fear, either of management reprisal or of losing their job for speaking up.
  • Paperwork gets in the way. A perception that it’s just too much trouble to start up the paper trail or by doing so creates more work for everyone.
  • Nothing happens, it’s just seen as a “tick in the box” exercise for management, and therefore workers do not see any advantage in reporting.
  • The uncertainty of what constitutes a near-miss and how/what needs to be reported.
  • “It’s no big deal”. The perception that it is ‘just something that happens in the line of work we do’.

How to encourage near-miss reporting…

  • Train your workforce in hazard identification. This has people thinking proactively about hazards before they escalate into near misses.
  • Remind your management team that these incidents are opportunities to improve, not slacken the focus on safety systems and procedures.
  • Look for and share stories of where near-miss reporting has stopped a major incident or seek out and share near-miss reports; discuss how they are being responded to on a daily/weekly basis.
  • Work collaboratively to work out a system to report near-misses Keep it simple so everyone knows what to do and how to report. The less paperwork the better, if steps can be automated put them in place – Location, Workers Details (name, role, manager) and anything that may assist a worker when logging a report.
  • Make the reporting system easy to use and with the ability to collect useful data for rectification – this might mean you need to develop an anonymous reporting system, using technology i.e. online, an incident hotline, or a mobile app.
  • Encourage verbal reporting. You may need to start by doing the paper-work for your team or have it readily available to complete on any device.
  • Praise whoever submits a near-miss report. Let everyone know this is how they can play their part in stopping major incidents based on their reporting before it happens again. The difference between complacency and speaking up (about a near miss or hazard) can make the difference between no one getting hurt, an injury or a tragic fatality.
  • DO SOMETHING. You’ve been given a wake-up call by a near-miss, now use that knowledge of what ‘could have happened’ to put in controls to eliminate or manage the risk immediately.
  • At the end of each week, month or quarter, review the types of near misses that have occurred, with your team, to highlight trends and patterns to determine what training procedures or systems your organisation needs to undertake to strengthen the area.

Near-miss reporting is vital as it is important in preventing serious incidents that are less frequent but more harmful than near-misses. Many safety procedures are reactive, as they are produced after an incident or injury has occurred to prevent re-occurrence, so by reporting near-miss incidents you can promote proactive safety, raising awareness of potential hazards and mitigation strategies BEFORE an injury occurs.

If you would like assistance in reviewing your organisation’s health and safety documentation, please do get in touch with us, we are experts in the field and can ensure that our hindsight is your foresight.

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