A Near Miss is an unplanned event that did not result in injury, illness, or damage – but had the potential to do so. Only a fortunate break in the chain of events prevented an injury, fatality, or damage; in other words, a miss that was nonetheless very near.
Many safety activities are reactive and not proactive, and some organizations wait for losses to occur before taking steps to prevent a recurrence. Near miss incidents often precede loss producing events but may be overlooked as there was no harm (no injury, damage, or loss). An organization may not have a reporting culture where employees are encouraged to report these close calls. Thus, many opportunities to prevent the incidents are lost.
History has shown repeatedly that most loss producing events (incidents), both serious and catastrophic, were preceded by warnings or near miss incidents. Recognizing and reporting near miss incidents can significantly improve worker safety and enhance an organization’s safety culture.
What are Best Practices in Establishing a Near Miss Reporting System?
- Leadership should establish a reporting culture reinforcing that every opportunity to identify and control hazards, reduce risk, and prevent harmful incidents must be acted on.
- The reporting system needs to be non-punitive and, if desired by the person reporting, anonymous.
- Investigate near miss incidents to identify the root cause and the weaknesses in the system that resulted in the circumstances that led to the near miss.
- Use investigation results to improve safety systems, hazard control, risk reduction, and lessons learned. All of these represent opportunity for training, feedback on performance and a commitment to continuous improvement.
- Near miss reporting is vitally important to preventing serious, fatal, and catastrophic incidents that are less frequent but far more harmful than other incidents.
Some Tips for Employers:
- Incidents occur every day at the workplace that could result in a serious injury or damage.
- A near-miss program may help prevent future incidents.
- Companies must help overcome an employee’s fear of being blamed after reporting a near miss.
- Employers need to make the process of reporting a near miss as easy as possible.
- Include training for new employees as a part of their orientation.
- Celebrate the success and value of the near miss reporting process with all employees!