Near Miss Reporting: Why It’s Important

Near Miss Reporting: Why It's Important

Near miss reporting can help protect your employees from unseen hazards in the workplace and improve your company’s safety culture.

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What is a Near Miss?

Reporting a near miss can ensure that future incidents and injuries are avoided.

Regardless of your industry or organization, it's likely that you have encountered a workplace near miss situation. A near miss, also known as a close call or near hit, is defined as an unplanned event that did not result in injury, illness, or damage - but had the potential to do so. Typically, these events result from either unsafe conditions, arising from the work environment itself, or unsafe acts, arising from activities performed in the workplace.

Scenario 1: Unsafe Condition Near Miss

An employee trips over an extension cord in the hallway. The employee manages to regain their balance before falling and does not sustain any injuries. This event constitutes a near miss because injuries could have occurred, ranging from a bruise to a broken bone. The extension cord creates an unsafe condition in the workplace.

Scenario 2: Unsafe Act Near Miss

To reach items on the highest shelf in the office storage room, several employees choose to stand on lower shelves instead of using a ladder. Employees occasionally slip, but none have been injured. This event constitutes a near miss because serious injuries could have been sustained by the employees. Additionally, this act could have potentially caused damage to property (i.e. the storage room shelving unit).

Why Report Near Misses?

Though no immediate injury or damage occurred in these scenarios, these near misses represent potential threats to the safety of the office and its employees. Both unsafe conditions and unsafe acts can result in accidents and injuries. As such, they need to be reported as soon as they occur. In fact, the National Safety Council (NCS) has stated that “most loss producing events (incidents), both serious and catastrophic, were preceded by warnings or near miss incidents”.

Reporting a near miss can ensure that future incidents and injuries are avoided. This can help organizations reduce the costs associated with workplace incidents, such as medical expenses, workers’ compensation payments, time lost due to injury, accident investigation costs, and equipment replacement costs. Additionally, an organization that records near misses in addition to other incidents can improve its overall safety culture.

The Reporting Process

An important aspect of the near miss reporting process is encouraging employees to come forward when they witness a near miss. Provide employees with training that defines a near miss, explains the importance of reporting, and explains the reporting process. Additionally, ensure that employees are comfortable sharing information about a near miss. Consider allowing anonymous reporting or providing employees with incentives to encourage them to report near misses.

Once an employee comes forward, complete an incident report. To guide you through the report writing process, you may consider following an incident report template or consulting a comprehensive guide.  After a detailed report is completed, a thorough investigation can be completed. This investigation will ideally clarify the root cause of the near miss – whether an unsafe act or unsafe condition. Finally, depending on the findings of the investigations, devise and implement solutions to prevent future near misses and incidents.