The Importance of Reporting Near Misses in the Workplace

A near miss, or an incident which could have but didn’t result in an accident at the workplace, may be either ignored or quickly dismissed simply because no damage was done and no one was injured. It is important to report near-misses, and in this post we will explore why.

The main issue is that on another occasion a comparable situation could occur resulting in very serious consequences.

There is no legal requirement to report near misses unless they fall under one the categories of dangerous occurrences set out in the reporting of incidents legislation. So why encourage reporting, recording and investigation?

Simply put, reporting a near miss may save lives, time and expense. The opportunity to learn from near misses, use of the information to build a better risk awareness and improve workplace safety within the organisation can be invaluable.

It is therefore of great important to record and investigate all near misses as they could be symptomatic of either an underlying health and safety issue, or an obvious hazard or hazardous process which is being overlooked.

Undertaking investigations into near misses should allow you to identify any dangerous patterns. If no intervention is developed, this could result in a loss event, severe injury or even a fatality.

Near misses can arise from many environmental and process hazards, but tend to be those which commonly give rise to minor accidents and incidents such as:

  • Slips, trips and falls.
  • Working at heights.
  • Poor or missing hazard communication.
  • Use of equipment.
  • Operational error and poor maintenance.
  • Risky behaviour or horseplay.

Understanding whether an event can be described as a near miss

There is a need to understand the difference between what may be classed as an incident or an accident. Both incidents and accidents represent an unexpected occurrence that may have resulted endangered health and or safety or placed at risk property, equipment and processes which could result in financial losses.

The key difference between them being that an incident doesn’t result in an injury or illness for the person involved or affected, while an accident does.

Risk based theory calculates that for every 300 near miss events, and where there is no intervention to prevent the next near miss, there will be one serious accident.

That one serious accident may result in a severe injury, illness and even a fatality, thus demonstrating the extreme importance of a concerted effort to reduce the number of occasions when workers experience these close calls, but fail to report them and so restrict the organisations ability to investigate.

Clear and routine near miss reporting is seen as sign of a healthy safety culture, demonstrating that employees are motivated to detect and report potential hazards, and that management are serious about their response and subsequent risk reduction actions.

When health and safety issues at this level are addressed at all levels of an organisation, it becomes a shared responsibility and makes everyone feel involved in their own, and their colleagues safety, and subsequently becomes an most effective tool in reducing work place accidents.

Near miss event are too easily dismissed or the subject of a lunch time joke so they don’t get reported and the underlying hazards aren’t properly controlled. A changed approach to both incident, accident and the near miss reporting process may be required, along with appropriate staff training, encouragement and targets. All working towards the building a more positive safety culture that improves the risk management process and ultimately leads to a safer workplace.

If you would like further advice on near miss reporting in the work place, or any other aspect of health and safety, Priority 1 is here to help. Contact us today.

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