A manufacturing warehouse employee - let’s call her Jane - clocks into work for the day. It’s early morning and the cement floor is slick from the night's condensation. Building materials are scattered in piles across the room from ongoing construction - without any clear signage.
Jane switches on the light but the room is dimly lit. Squinting through the darkness, she navigates the room from memory. Almost inevitably, Jane slips but manages to steady herself against a wall. Jane has experienced a near miss.
Near Misses Vs Accidents And Incidents
A near miss is an unintended occurrence that had the potential to cause harm, injury or illness, but did not. Unlike injuries, near misses are simply close-calls.
Although harm is avoided this time around, the cause of the near miss could result in injury in the future. This makes it important to report the near miss and deal with its cause to avoid a future accident or incident.
An accident, while also unplanned, causes property damage and/or personal injury. An incident, on the other hand, is often used as an umbrella term for near misses, accidents and other non-wanted events such as property damages, IT bugs and other observations.
Why Is Near Miss Reporting Important
Often when we experience close calls, there is a momentary sigh of relief: "Whew! I am glad that didn't happen".
To use a close call valuably, it is important to do more than just sigh - how can the situation be avoided in the future?
Many employees will not get to this second part. Instead, they will simply think “no harm, no foul”. This makes it important to create a work environment that highlights the dangers of dismissing near misses.
Thus, reporting is vital! A near miss left unaddressed can lead to an accident or an incident. Both of these can be costly to a business, financially, as well as to its human resources.
The injury of workers and loss of property can be avoided by simply collecting near miss reports, working to control hazards and establishing good safety policies.
Dealing With Near Misses
The reporting process cannot work without the employees' active reporting. Involve and educate your workers through training and workshops on near misses. These must show them why reporting is important for their safety and the success of the company.
Providing incentives for reporting could encourage workers to be enthusiastic about the process. Be careful not to set incentive quotas (like collecting stickers for a free coffee at your favourite café) as this may work only until they reach their quota. The reporting needs to be a long-term solution and part of organisational culture.
Remove The Stigma Around Near Miss Reporting
Avoid the blame game. Creating a stigma around making mistakes will stop employees from reporting. Speaking openly about near-miss situations that have happened is useful in showing transparency and that reported near misses will not be punished.
Keeping names anonymous may also prompt people to step forward.
There is no point in receiving reports and doing nothing about them. Action matters!
Respond to the reports to prevent future events by removing reported hazards. This will encourage employees to have faith in the effectiveness of the system.
Make Reporting Easy
Besides training and incentives, lowering the reporting threshold should be an ongoing process as well. Many companies have already embraced mobile technology for incident reporting, but there are multiple layers of friction that nearly every company can still reduce. Not only could this remove the angst some people might have of reporting physically, but it could also minimise the paperwork and make responses more immediate. Using an incident reporting platform achieves all this.
Types Of Near Misses
Dealing with near misses requires everybody to know what situations count. A company cannot expect employees to report when they do not know exactly what they should report. That is what makes the education and involvement of employees essential.
Some of the most common types of near misses:
- Slips, trips and falls (like Jane)
- Risky behaviour (for example: when a worker jumps down from a height)
- Narrow escapes (i.e. when a worker manages to free a limb that gets trapped in faulty machinery)
- No warning signs (for example: walking into an active construction area without knowing and thus taking no precautions)
- Working from a height (i.e. almost falling as there are no protective barriers/balustrades)
It's also good to understand that different people naturally notice different types of near misses. Fundamentally, everybody in the workplace just needs to know that an accident almost happened but didn’t and report it accordingly.
The Bottom Line
When operating in any danger-prone industry, risk management and safety policies are a must!
Establishing successful near miss reporting practices streamlines cases and removes blame. It secures employees and limits future accidents, incidents and ‘almosts’. Start with the simple aim to get employees and management thinking: “How did that happen? Let’s fix it!”.
If you're looking for a incident reporting platform that is hyper easy-to-use, ticks all the boxes for anonymity, two-way communication, has built-in workflows for multiple use cases and more, have a look at our incy.io | Whistleblowing module and contact us for more information!
We're a tech company with a passion for helping our customers adapt to the fast changing VUCA world. We're doing that by developing easy-to-use SaaS products that make gathering, managing and analysing field information as easy as possible for the end users. Remove gatekeepers, go horizontal and learn from your mistakes before they actually happen. More info at planbrothers.io