Every individual is likely to find themselves in a near miss situation at some point in their lives, perhaps at home, on the road or at their place of work. In the workplace, tasks such as operating machinery or heavy lifting (amongst various others) can present risks to personal safety or damage to equipment. A near miss refers to one of those unplanned events that has the potential to cause harm, but does not actually result in human injury, environmental or equipment damage, or an interruption to normal operations.
Employers rely on close call and hazard reporting to discover and address risks, but employees may be tempted to write off near misses as a ‘close call’. With no harm done it may seem reasonable to conclude that there is no need to report the incident. In fact, employees may deliberately avoid reporting such incidents.
These are a few of the common issues that lead to non-reporting of near miss incidents:
By reviewing the circumstances that led to the near miss incident, you can determine how and why it occurred and the likelihood of it happening again. Adopting this proactive approach to assessing the risks enables businesses to identify and take necessary corrective actions that can go some way to preventing similar – or more serious – incidents from happening in the future.
Consultation with employees is often best practice. By educating your team on what potentially could have gone wrong, and suggesting appropriate solutions, employees become more aware of the risks associated with the tasks they carry out. Consultations with staff also illustrate to employees that the organisation takes health and safety seriously.
Some employees may offer suggestions as to what actions could be taken to address the situation and this should be encouraged. By being part of the solution, they are likely to be more cautious the next time they carry out the task which led to the near miss scenario.
The following are some additional tips to help managers to assess and manage near misses in the workplace:
If it could have resulted in an injury or death, a full investigation should be conducted, and the near misses are communicated all the way upwards to directors. However, if the near miss creates a condition that is less serious – such as a trip hazard due to an electric cord – the hazard is reduced, and therefore communicating the risk to employees to raise awareness may be sufficient.
A near miss today could be accident waiting to happen. Near misses should be recorded and the recommended preventative measures shared with employees through various platforms, including at company meetings, on individual project sites and via internal communications platforms such as the company intranet to minimise the potential of a re-occurrence.
Whilst lessons can be learned from accidents, prevention is always better than cure! Employees should be trained on how to properly identify and recognize potential hazards. To make it as easy as possible for employees to submit near misses and ensure good data, consider allowing them to turn in near-miss reports anonymously.
At ABL we are happy to discuss near misses including accident reporting and investigation procedures, and we assist businesses to put robust systems in force.
Our risk manager, Callum Davidson has considerable experience in this area across a wide range of industry sectors, including retail, hospitality, construction. For further information and guidance contact our Risk Manager at: firstname.lastname@example.org