Let’s face it: companies excelling in safety have embedded near miss reporting into their safety culture. In other words, near miss reporting is crucial for a safe workplace.

However, it is difficult encouraging staff to report near misses; for example, slips or trips are often seen as embarrassing – even funny – by employees.

Other reasons for not reporting near misses include: fear of punishment, peer pressure from poorly designed incentive programs, and difficult near miss forms.

Nevertheless, near miss reporting is important – here’s why:

Near Miss Reporting May Prevent Incidents

A near miss or close call is defined by the National Safety Council (NSC) as “an unplanned event that did not result in injury, illness or damage – but had the potential to do so. Only a fortunate break in the chain of events prevented an injury, fatality or damage; in other words, a miss that was nonetheless very near”.

The reactive nature of many safety programs leads to near misses going unreported. However, history shows that near misses, close calls or warnings precede both serious and catastrophic incidents.

According to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), for every accident there are roughly 90 near misses. According to the Heinrich pyramid, for every 300 near misses there is one serious accident.

Reporting and investigating near misses can highlight otherwise overlooked hazards and gaps in the EHS program. Use these leading indicators and make your safety program proactive rather than reactive.

Near Miss Investigations Can Save Time and Money

Consider this metaphor from Peter Bussey, Research Analyst, EHS Management at LNS Research:

“Relying on lagging indicators is a lot like trying to drive somewhere while looking in the rear-view mirror. Incident and injury rates tell you how much your safety management process failed in the past - where you’ve been. Unfortunately, they don’t tell you why failures occurred, or give you actionable information to take proactive measures.”

Taking near misses seriously saves time, money and even lives further down the line. Investigating close calls also means investigating – and rectifying – potential hazards.

The HSE says that near miss investigations will help you:

  • Identify where existing control measures failed
  • The improvements required
  • Prevent it from happening again
  • Highlight where risk assessment needs reviewing
  • Improve risk control

After identifying the risks, mitigate them. The most in-depth incident investigation or root cause analysis is useless without acting on its findings. The near miss will just happen again, except this time it might not be a near miss.

Near Misses Support a Great Safety Culture

A safe workplace needs a great safety culture. Upper management taking safety seriously means workers will, too. Safety becomes everyone’s responsibility.

Encouraging reporting and educating employees on its necessity is recommended for building a strong safety culture.

When safety is at the company’s core, anonymous observation is removed. No-one is punished for reporting injuries or near misses and safety incentive programs can even reward employees for reporting incidents. This employee participation encourages ownership of safety at all levels and taps into the worker’s point of view.

According to OSHA, a positive safety culture has the single greatest impact on accident reduction. Other important benefits include productivity and staff retention.

How to Increase Near Miss Reporting

Now we know why near miss reporting is important, the big question is: what practical steps can you take?

There is no silver bullet to achieving a strong safety culture, nor is it going to happen overnight. However, you can start by removing barriers.

For example, one global logistics company was able to increase near miss reporting by 370% with the use of software.  LBC Tank Terminals chose to make this available in Office 365 which all employees were already using. The widespread access and visibility led to the company proactively capturing a broader spectrum of risk worldwide.

Often, near miss reporting is a function of Incident Management Software (IMS).

An IMS system helps you not only capture near misses, but investigate their causes and implement actions to avoid recurrence.

Overall, near miss reporting is important in catching hazards before they cause considerable harm. Alongside other EHS processes such as Inspections, research shows addressing near misses is a powerful method of reducing EHS risk company-wide.

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