Most safety managers do not usually put much credence into near-miss accidents. Most employees do not even consider reporting them when one happens to them or a coworker, dismissing it as a “no harm done” incident. However, near-miss accidents could be opportunities for corrective actions to prevent serious injuries or even worse, fatalities in the workplace.
Cal/OSHA and the National Safety Council define near-miss as an unplanned event that did not result in injury, illness, or damage, but had the potential to do so.
By the very definition that near-misses do not result in injuries, illnesses, or damages leads one to believe that they are not worthy of safety scrutiny. Industry statistics show that for every 300 near misses, one serious injury occurred.
Paying attention to near-miss reports will create a culture within the workplace that identifies and improves existing hazards. At times, these hazards are not readily apparent to the person(s) in charge of workplace safety. Near-miss incidents can pinpoint root causes that lead to near-miss accidents, which could then result in a serious accident down the line.
Employees that perform the day-to-day operations of a business are inevitably the experts in spotting and controlling the hazards of their jobs. Their input and participation in the safety process is therefore crucial and should be encouraged.
Ways to Encourage Employee Participation to Report Near-Misses
- Train employees to properly recognize and spot hazards and near-misses and the importance of reporting them.
- Provide a system to report near-misses easily and any safety concerns that are non-punitive. Use the option to report anonymously.
- Provide timely feedback to the employees on their suggestions and/or concerns, or talk about anonymous reporting during employee meetings.
- Inform and train all employees on newly discovered safety hazards and any new preventive measures installed to address the potential hazard.
- Offer simple, non-monetary incentives for reporting near-misses such as a certificate of appreciation.
- Celebrate and share the success of the near-miss reporting program with all employees. For instance, lower incidences of injuries and the potential savings to the company as a result of the prevented accidents.
You can learn a lot from a near miss. And what you learn can help you make safety improvements at your workplace that could prevent a future accident. The persistent support and commitment from management of promoting the value of reporting near-misses can ensure the participation and support of its employees, resulting in a much safer work environment.