A great near miss reporting procedure is like having a crystal ball. It can be used to stop accidents before they happen. Preventing accidents is the goal of any near miss reporting system. The problem is that simply putting together a near miss form and issuing it to your workforce isn’t an effective near miss reporting procedure. It's just a piece of paper. Alone, this approach won’t bring you results.
A near miss is a warning sign. An alert for where an accident may happen in the future. The benefits of identifying common causes of accidents before an accident has the chance to hurt anyone makes sense. You stop pain and suffering. You keep work going. You keep your workforce safe from harm. Win, win, win.
A successful near miss reporting system starts with good design and ends with results. The system is understood and embraced by everyone, from managers to labourers. Most importantly, a successful near miss reporting system leads to improved safety performance.
If you are thinking about starting a near miss reporting system, you need more than a form. If you are wondering why your near miss reporting is failing, or are having problems getting near miss reporting to work in your business, these rules will also help you fix it. Here are 5 simple rules that will help you get the most out of your near miss reporting procedure:
Your near miss reporting system needs to easy to use.
If your forms or reporting systems are too long or complex, your workers will be deterred from reporting. And for your near miss reporting to work, it needs to start with everything being reported. If your forms use technical jargon or complex language, you are likely to see a lower quantity and less quality reporting due to confusion over the information required.
Near miss reporting should not be time-consuming or a hassle, to you or your workforce. Keep your forms simple and direct, you can always collect more information by investigating the near miss further where required.
It’s not just your forms that need a clear design - the whole procedure needs to be understood.
Every member of your team needs to use the system for it to work. Therefore, it is important that time is taken to introduce the procedure to all employees. Simple steps such as explaining what a near miss is, and how to identify hazards and risks at work will help bring in quality near-miss reports that can benefit your organisation.
Most, if not all, near miss reporting procedures are penalty free - in that there is no direct punishment simply for reporting a near miss. After all, this is an obvious deterrent to near-miss reporting and would undermine putting the system in place.
But what about indirect penalties?
While there is no penalty on the worker reporting the near miss, if the near miss report has a negative impact on the department or management, this will put pressure on workers to not report. It is important to use the near-miss reporting system as a way to make safety improvements rather than apportion blame.
Near miss reports need to be rewarded and encouraged for the system to succeed.
What about presumed penalties?
If your workforce thinks that penalties will occur as a result of reporting a near miss incident, you may develop a problem with under-reporting. Perceived penalties can include being viewed as a 'snitch' or a 'grass' by colleagues. Or through not wanting the near miss to reflect badly on themselves or their department. Workers who do not fully understand the near-miss system may feel like their job is at risk if they are regularly involved in near-miss incidents, or worry about being blamed.
This can be avoided by ensuring that there are no penalties for anyone involved in the near-miss incident, and through encouraging a positive health and safety culture throughout your organisation.
Leadership is vital for successful health and safety culture change within your organisation. Leadership should start at the very top of the organisation and work its way down through the management hierarchy.
If your workforce on site has not got a pro-active leader, taking your message and driving your near-miss reporting system on site, you are unlikely to see much in the way of results.
Supervisors and managers on site need to implement the system and take ownership. Simply setting up a near miss reporting system and sending the forms out to the site is not implementation. Leaders need to show the way.
If you have achieved rules 1 - 3 you should now be well on your way to a successful near miss reporting procedure. However, now you have the ball rolling you need to keep the momentum going to develop a lasting safety initiative.
You have delivered the message of the importance of near-miss reporting, got over the initial barriers - the miss reports start coming in. It is now back to you to take action. There is little point having the near miss reports in place if they are not used as an opportunity to improve safety and minimise risks.
Not only does action need to be taken, but it needs to be made visible. If your workforce doesn't see that action is being taken, they may start to lose faith in the system and put less effort into identifying and reporting near misses. After all, if nothing is getting done then why should they bother reporting in the first place?
Remember to keep your workforce involved. Give feedback to the near miss reports and outline the improvements you have made to reduce risks. Through demonstrating management commitment to the scheme, your workforce will mirror that commitment back at you.
Measurement is a valuable tool and an essential element of your safety management. If you don’t measure your results, how do you know if your near-miss reporting system is successful or not? Measurement should be used to establish benchmarks and to assess the effectiveness of the near-miss system.
Measure your accidents. You can identify problem areas, and assess the improvements made through the action taken as a result of near miss reporting.
Measure your near miss reports. This will allow you to identify patterns and trends in unsafe acts or conditions where further action is necessary.
Measure your success. Success could be through receiving good quality near miss reports or through making an activity safer as a result of the near miss system.
Measure your performance. Good performance through the number of near-miss reports received and through a reduction in accident frequency. These measurements should be fed back to your workforce to reinforce the near miss message and reward the efforts made by your team.
Now you know the 5 simple rules for a successful near miss reporting procedure. Use the free near miss report form to start getting yours in place.