Near miss reporting might not be a legal requirement, but reporting the accidents and incidents that follow will be. So it makes sense to get near miss reporting in place.
A near miss is an undesired event that, under slightly different circumstances, could have resulted in harm to people or damage to property, materials or the environment.
Reporting of near misses is not usually a legal requirement (with the exception of dangerous occurrences under RIDDOR). However, it is good safety management to report them internally. Reporting of near misses can reduce accidents and improve safety.
But if a near miss isn't an accident, and no one was harmed, what good is reporting it?
Well, unfortunately, where near misses occur accidents are sure to follow. Research has shown that for every 90 near misses an accident will occur.
All too often it takes an accident to identify a health and safety problem in the workplace. While the problem may then get addressed, someone has been injured. Accidents can also have financial implications and reflect badly on your organisation, through increased accident rates.
The ultimate goal of near-miss reporting is to address the incident and take action to prevent reoccurrence.
A workman drops a hammer off a scaffold, which falls 20m to the ground landing only a few feet away from another operative. This is a near miss incident. No accident occurred, no injury, the hammer was returned to the worker and everyone could continue their work.
Following a near miss report, the scaffold was inspected and found to have missing toeboards where the hammer slipped through. This was immediately rectified preventing other materials falling and causing accidents in the future.
Without a near miss reporting system, no manager may ever be aware this occurred unless they witnessed it.
A near miss report would allow management to review the situation and take action. The hammer may have been accidentally kicked by the workman as he turned around to pick it up, the hammer went through a gap in the toeboard or a missing scaffold board and fell off the edge.
Management can review the information, look at the circumstances, and take action to prevent reoccurrence. In this case, action would include ensuring all edge protection and scaffold boards are in place.
The near miss report may also highlight that scaffolds are being signed off incorrectly, or that they are not being checked at the required intervals.
An employee trips over an extension cable that is running across the middle of an office area. She manages to regain her footing and continues walking. No one else notices.
Following a near miss report, a workplace assessment shows that a number of trailing cables are routed across walkways. Some are not even in use, and others can be plugged in closer to where they are needed and routed away from traffic routes. Quick changes that greatly minimise the risk of trips causing injury in the future.
Near misses can be really minor incidents, like the trip above. But, under different circumstances, the employee could have fallen against the corner of a desk, or down some stairs, and really hurt herself. By taking action right away, you prevent a more serious version of the event reoccurring.
A site operative is coming back from lunch when he sees a delivery vehicle reversing off the site, a woman with a pushchair is on the pavement. He shouts out and waves at the driver to get his attention. The driver stops, the woman continues walking, and the operative then waves the driver on.
The operative reports the near miss to the site manager, who implements a one-way system on site to prevent reversing off the site. He enforces this with signage, barriers, and by ensuring all delivery vehicles are escorted on and off the site with the assistance of a banksman.
It's easy to see how this example could have resulted in a serious accident. But simple changes once a problem is identified can help make your work safer for everyone.
A supervisor steps in a puddle on a walk around of the warehouse. She asks the warehouse manager to clean it up. He does, and the walk around continues.
Following the near miss report, it's found that a small leak in the rooflight above is causing the puddle after heavy rain. The roof is fixed, preventing the issue from getting worse, and removing the slip hazard once and for all.
This might not seem like a near miss, but in other circumstances, someone could have slipped and injured themselves.
A worker stands on a chair to reach some items on a shelf that are out of reach from ground level. The chair swivels and the worker jumps down. The worker steps back up on the chair to retrieve the items. A colleague reports the near miss.
The investigation following the report identifies that the items stored on the shelf are in regular use, and chairs and other makeshift items are often stood on to reach them. Storage is rearranged to bring regularly used items within reach of floor level to reduce work at height, and safer access equipment is provided for those items out of reach.
These are 5 simple examples of how near miss reports can provide clues to a more serious issue. The valuable information reported can be acted upon to prevent more serious accidents occurring as a result of bad practice. This action will not only protect the safety of your workforce but also improve your monitoring procedures and help your organisation to comply with its legal duties.
A near miss reporting programme, when implemented well, is a very effective reactive programme to reduce accidents and improve health and safety on site. By identifying and addressing the hazard reported, action can be taken before an accident occurs.
And often, the action needed is simple and easy to do. Like changing a work procedure, providing training or moving an item of equipment.
Start collecting near miss information with the free near miss report form, and prevent future accidents before they happen.