Reporting Near Misses in the Workplace
This article appeared in the Jul/Aug 2023 issue of MiMfg Magazine. Read the full issue and find past issues online.
For every ten severe injuries and one fatality, there are 600 near misses — things that almost went wrong but didn’t.
The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) strongly recommends reporting and investigating these “near miss incidents,” though many companies fail to do so. Whether you didn’t realize the need for reporting or don’t know where to start, looking at how others successfully implement near-miss reporting procedures can provide helpful insights on how to begin your program.
It Starts with Culture & Education
Near-miss reporting begins with safety systems in place and a culture of proactive disclosure of safety concerns. When a company and its employees understand the value of safety and are proactive about maintaining a safe workplace, near-miss reporting can become routine.
Educate your personnel on how to recognize which incidents to report. To you, a potentially dangerous situation is a near miss. To the employee, it may be just part of the job.
Provide detailed descriptions of each scenario and clear examples outlining the incidents to report. Ultimately, reporting is about making everyone safer, a point that should be emphasized in all near-miss communications.
Once you have developed the definition of near misses and communicated those definitions to employees, the next step is to gather information. The good, old-fashioned safety suggestion box can be a great way of collecting near-miss reports anonymously. Other suggestions include mobile apps, intranet and internal technology for near-miss reporting and safety suggestions.
Management and supervisors should have an open-door policy when it comes to safety. Workers should be able to report near misses to their direct supervisor without fear of repercussion. Treat a near miss like an incident to help identify root causes and corrective actions.
Strategies for collecting near-miss information:
- Ask “who, when, where, why and how” questions
- In a training setting, ask, “What’s the craziest thing that’s happened to you on the job?”
- When individuals share stories and scenarios, point out what is appropriate to report as a near miss
Companies can use a range of near-miss reporting structures to set goals and track safety improvements. The structure can be formal, such as paper-based reporting with e-mail action items, or a simple, informal conversation. There are also safety-tracking systems on the market that can easily incorporate near-miss observations into an audit program.
The most sophisticated systems are fully automated and can digest real-time feedback. Companies that gather detailed and organized information have evolved their near-miss program from safety initiatives to quality control assistance. That evolution can give project supervision a holistic view of the job. Increased reporting of near misses also helps companies quickly make specific and meaningful adjustments to safety procedures.
The final and most critical step is to take action with your near-miss information. Near-miss reporting requires a lot of information from the ground floor to be effective. In turn, this data needs to be communicated across the entire organization once reported, followed by implementing corrective actions.
It is imperative to verify management is on board with not only near-miss reporting but also the investigation and implementation of corrective actions that will follow. Beyond that, safety messaging and instruction are best received from an immediate supervisor.
No matter how well you plan, incidents can occur and it helps to look to the future to help reduce workers’ compensation claims. Exploring ways to identify high-risk behavior along with quantitative analysis can help lower the number of claims and potential litigation your company may face.
About the Authors
Phillip Vogel is a Commercial Claims Manager with Brown & Brown. He may be reached at 586-446-3632 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Derek Wesch is a Commercial Claims Manager with Brown & Brown. He may be reached at 586-446-3542 or email@example.com.
Brown & Brown is an MMA Premium Associate Member and has been an MMA member company since January 2021. Visit online: BBrown.com.