Near Miss Reporting As a Safety Tool

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Typically the most comprehensive reporting of near miss cases is carried out in workplaces with high levels of safety culture. In these highly safety oriented workplaces, workers are encouraged to report all near misses, and the management's commitment to safety is tangible. The basics why, when, and how of gathering information about near misses should be clear to everyone in the workplace.

Alert Information

Workers need to understand that the motivating factor is to gather information and not to find who is guilty. Instead the aim is to learn and prevent further accidents. When workers understand the message that they will not be punished because of the near misses, this usually encourages them to better report the near misses.

In order to prevent accidents , it is essential to gather the information about near misses that have occurred in the workplace [5]. Gathering of the information about the cases needs to be performed systematically if it is to be successful. Everyone at the workplace should be aware of how to report near misses and where they should be reported. Each workplace should have a process for reporting and analysing near miss cases.

Reporting near misses should be everybody's responsibility all the time — not only the responsibility of those in the internal OSH organisation or in management. The procedure of gathering these cases should be simple and everyone should have easy access to the system irrespective of whether it is an electronic or paper-based reporting system.

Thus everyone in the workplace needs to be trained to report these cases. For new workers, the training can be included in an orientation process. However, it may be necessary, and it is certainly advisable, to remind all workers every now and then about reporting near misses. The key is to make reporting of near misses straightforward. If reporting is expected to be performed on a paper, there needs to be a common understanding on what facts to report and where to return these reports.

Depending on the type of the workplace, it might at times be useful to have paper report forms available for workers, however electronic and online reporting systems are quite common nowadays when most workers have access to computers. If paper forms are used, the process of converting these reports into an electronic format needs to be agreed upon in advance, i. It is important that the process should not simply come to a stop with the oral report; the oral report needs to be properly processed.

A successful process will always include information on who receives the near miss reports and who handles the reports. It is necessary to appoint a person who is responsible for receiving the reports and to provide for back-up in case of absence holidays, illness, etc. There should also be a common understanding about how long it takes to handle the near miss reports.

Even though it will not be possible to implement all corrective actions immediately, the reports should be handled quite soon after reception. After receiving and processing the near miss report for example registration into the database , corrective actions need to be considered. An investigation of near misses should be performed in a similar manner as an investigation of occupational accidents, for example by performing the root cause analysis.

Near Miss reporting

Corrective actions should be considered in co-operation between management and workers, because worker participation in devising corrective actions increases their commitment to implement these decisions. When investigating near miss cases, the focus is on the question: What might have happened? Those near miss cases that require immediate corrective actions for example icy and slippery surface , need to be corrected immediately.

Often it is not possible to execute corrective actions promptly. In such cases, the immediate danger needs to be resolved and permanent, long term, solutions can be considered afterwards. Planning of the corrective actions requires resources, such as staff and time. It is possible that the first solution is not the best, and therefore these initial actions should be evaluated after a period, and perhaps new corrective actions instituted.

A good practice is to always have a person of authority with official decision-making capabilities involved in the selection of corrective actions, particularly if the corrective actions require new investments. Another option is for the workers and foremen to consider the corrective actions first and to present this to the top management for approval and decision making.

Product Alternatives

When choosing the corrective actions, the focus should be on eliminating the risks. This can be done for example by removing the hazard or by changing the work processes. Sometimes the risks cannot totally be eliminated. Then it is essential to choose corrective actions in such a way that risks are reduced to an acceptable level.

After the decision on the corrective actions is made, the implementation should be ensured by naming a person in charge and agreeing on the schedule for implementing the corrective actions. The implementation of corrective actions should be followed-up after the deadline. The optimal situation will be if the corrective actions can be implemented immediately. However, this is not always possible. In such a case that the implementation takes more than one month, then information about the future implementation should be shared at the workplace.

Transparency in communication of occupational safety issues is important in order to create a commitment to safety.

Near-miss reporting – Promoting proactive safety culture

A person who has reported a near miss situation should receive feedback from those handling the reports. The first feedback could simply be that the report has been received and include a note on the report processing schedule. This is important especially in the cases when the corrective actions will not be taken immediately.

After the corrective actions have been decided, the person who has made the original report, should be informed. This will encourage others to provide additional near miss reports, since they will see that actual concrete changes will result from reporting and that the reports are being taken seriously.

If the near miss report does not require any corrective actions, this should also be informed to the person who made the original report. This will increase the commitment of workers to report near miss cases, they can be satisfied if they receive assurances about why modifications are not necessary, i. Accident prevention is continuous work. Neither a worker nor an employer can think that everything is in good order as long as a risk assessment has been done. Risk assessments have to be reviewed regularly depending on the nature of the risks in the workplace in question, the degree of change likely to occur in their work activity, or as a result of the findings of an accident or a near miss investigation.

All accidents and near misses should be investigated and root causes need to be found, even though corrective actions were taken immediately. The reason for this is that the same potential for an accident may exist elsewhere in the workplace and the same corrective actions may also be needed elsewhere. A common pitfall is that when a workplace seems to be concerned about obtaining near miss reports and puts on some effort into collecting these reports, but after receiving the reports makes no visible changes or provides no feedback. When workers cannot see any benefits in the reporting, this typically leads to an unwillingness to fill in near miss reports.

Thus the number of near miss reports gathered should not be the key objective in this process.

Near Miss Reporting: A (mis)leading indicator of safety?

The most important objective of the reporting should be to identify the hazards that need to be tackled and to implement corrective actions for achieving a safer workplace. Whilst using the sledge hammer to dislodge a Te shackle connecting a Te wire, the hammer head came free of the wooden shaft when it was struck against the shackle pin, and it fell 5m to the unmanned area below which had no barriers in place.

There were no injuries. On closer inspection, it was noted that there were a number of small indentations around the head and along the shaft, two hairline cracks at the head end of the hammer and a large open split at the user end of the handle. It was also noted that the lanyard used to secure the handle was an inadequate solution for the retention of tools used at height.

Following investigation, it was identified that there had been numerous other occasions where hammer heads had either been found loose or had come off during use.


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