Near Miss Report Designing the best near miss report for close calls and near misses
A near miss, is an event in which there is a chance that a serious accident could occur however thankfully it is avoided. People who experience these events tend to not report them, thinking that there is no need that since they survived and there was no real harm done it is pointless, plus they have other things to do and that they should probably get on with them, this can unfortunately lead to severe consequences.
Some examples of near misses are:
- Your walking along in a room and all of a sudden you trip over on a rug sticking up on the floor, luckily you catch yourself before you fall and do any damage.
- You walk along a hall and slip on a puddle of water on the floor just missing hitting a shelf and knocking off its contents.
- You turn a corner and narrowly miss another co-worker just managing to avoid knocking what they are carrying to the ground. Both of you are fine of course although perhaps a little shaken.
- An employee stands on top of a table (as they feel the ladder, which they decided not to use, was too far away) to change a lightbulb and almost slips off. Thankfully they are fine the light is changed and no damage is done.
Why should near misses be reported?
It is always nice not to be hurt in regard to an incident however the potential for serious harm to occur in the future if the incident is not dealt with appropriately in the present is quite high.
Still do you really need to report a near miss? After all, all you have to do is make sure the rug is tucked back down again, or the water is mopped up, right? Near misses are just one version of the way events could have transpired and as if there was a parallel universe there is an alternative version of those events where things went very differently. It is important that people take note of these minor incidents so that they can avoid the alternative versions from ever actually occurring. Every incident no matter how minor it actually was has the potential to have been much much worse.
Why don't people report near misses?
People are not likely to report these incidents for several reasons:
- Feeling that they don't know how to report correctly or don't want to as they feel it is too hard to do so.
- Forms for such an incident can be extensive and as such can seem like too much work for something that the person or people involved feel to be trivial.
- Then there are the cases of the reporting being done correctly and nothing being done in response. No follow up, or changes made, and the hazard goes on existing awaiting the next victim or victims that may not be so lucky.
The problems with reporting and acting on the information are able to be sorted and dealt with if there is an open and healthy culture of safety reporting within the company, people are more likely to report near misses if they feel supported and are encouraged to do so within the company.
So, what steps should people take?
There are a number of steps that can be taken to increase people's awareness and likelihood of reporting near misses.
- Reframing these events as not 'bad' instead referring to them as an opportunity to change.
- Simply relabelling near misses to something along the lines of potential hazards, near hits, fortunate saves or lucky avoidances can help change people's perception of the incidents. What you call them is not significant so long as it both draws attention to the importance of a near miss and highlights their importance.
- Make reporting easier by assessing the forms and looking to see if there is a way to shorten and or simplify the process.
- Make it easier to access the forms across the site.
- Using an incident reporting app can be worthwhile as employees can report it straight away with any changes, they made to reduce the risk for other people coming into that area.
- Whilst undertaking a review of your reporting process check to see whether it encourages or discourages the reporting of near misses. For example, if your system rewards people or the company "for so many days without an incident" then people are less likely to make an effort to report them.
- It is valuable to define a near miss and communicate this to employees so that there is no doubt as to what they need to be reporting. In particular this should be included as part of the safety induction and communication process.
- It is vital that as part of the communication process to make sure that senior management is seen to actually back up and support any changes.
- Make sure that any reports are followed up, as mentioned above. When things aren't followed up people feel that reporting is a waste of time.
What should be done after an incident has been reported?
All steps possible should be taken to make sure that the incident is prevented from happening again. This includes all of the steps listed above. It also means questions should be asked such as "Were the correct guidelines being followed?" "Were the conditions safe?" "Were they supposed to be there?" Along with other questions of this sort and relevant collected data this information will help to discern if there was a problem with the current guidelines, procedures etcetera. Data should also be collected and implemented to assist with the creation of a 'near miss system' in order to help better predict future problems. Which as such can help to improve systems and responses across the company. Employees should be notified of any relevant changes that have been made in response to the incident.
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