NEAR MISS REPORTING
Near miss reporting is a fundamental piece of a strong safety culture. While OSHA doesn’t require near miss reporting, companies capturing that information can gain insight into potential problem areas. Understanding the difference between incidents, near misses, and accidents is important when developing a comprehensive safety meeting topics.
An Incident is an unplanned, undesired event that hinders completion of a task and usually causes injury, illness, or property damage. The terms “unplanned and undesired” don’t mean unpreventable, nor do they mean that you can’t prepare for them. Analysis and planning are how we prepare for serious incidents that may occur, and how we take action to eliminate them.
A near miss is defined as an incident that could have resulted in injury, illness, or property damage, but didn’t. Near misses, also known as ‘close calls’, should really be near hits.
The definition of accident is similar to that of incident, but implies that the occurrence was unpreventable. An accident, using this definition, contradicts the basic concepts of a safety program, which is to find and fix hazards, and prevent incidents. If we accept that accidents have no cause, that means they are unpreventable, and they will happen again.
Training employees on the importance of reporting near misses not only will raise their awareness of potential hazards; it moves your safety program from a purely reactive mode toward a more proactive effort. Near misses are often a precursor to more serious incidents, and may be a warning that procedures and practices need to be examined.
The reporting and investigation of near misses can be instrumental in preventing injuries. Near misses are really a zero-cost learning opportunity, because it signals a potential problem without resulting in injury or loss.
If your current safety program doesn’t include the mandatory reporting of near misses, perhaps it should. Consider implementing near miss reporting the next time you review your safety program, which you should do annually. This commitment to continuous improvement will demonstrate the importance of safety to your company to all employees.
Life doesn’t always give us warning signs, but when it does, we should heed them. Having an internal near miss reporting and investigation procedure as part of your safety program is heeding one of those signs. Being able to anticipate and avoid incidents is far less costly than reacting to one. An ounce of prevention could be worth someone’s life.
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