Encouraging reporting of near-miss incidents
Date Posted: 01/27/2020
You can't address hazards if you don't know about them, and encouraging employees to report hazards is a great way to identify them. In particular, near miss incidents reveal conditions or work practices likely to cause future accidents. They are accidents waiting to happen, and if they aren't addressed, they will happen again, but may not be a "miss" next time.
Unfortunately, employees may be reluctant to report near miss incidents for fear of getting a coworker in trouble.
Training on hazard recognition could be a good place to start. Obviously, employees won't report hazards if they can't recognize problems. Things like cluttered aisles or unlabeled chemical containers should be easily identified and reported. Once employees get comfortable reporting these things, they may be more likely to report near misses.
To encourage reporting, you'll need to address employees' concerns of getting a coworker in trouble for reporting unsafe conduct. First, explain that any discussion with the reported employee will focus on safety, not on discipline. You'll assume the employee simply didn't know or understanding something, even if the hazard was previously covered in training. You'll use the opportunity to reinforce training (and you might even identify a need for additional training). Discipline should not occur unless these reminders fail to correct the problem.
Next, point out that unsafe conduct cannot be allowed to continue. Ask employees how they'd feel if they witnessed a near miss, didn't report it, and the next incident resulted in serious injury to a coworker. The witness might have prevented the injury by reporting the near miss. Further, ask them, "what if YOU were injured because you didn't report the near miss?" After all, unsafe conditions could affect anyone.
Tracking near misses
Once employees start reporting near misses, you can look for patterns to address. You probably already review your 300 Log to identify hazards. However, you shouldn't have many serious injuries on your 300 Log. In fact, if your 300 Log has enough serious injuries to identify hazard patterns, you're probably way behind the curve.
With a small number of serious injuries, the limited data set may prevent you from finding patterns. Adding near miss incidents to the data can help you identify conditions or work practices likely to cause injuries, then take action to address them before an injury occurs.
Explain all of this to your employees. You need their help to identify hazards and unsafe behaviors. Your goal isn't to "catch" someone doing something wrong. Rather, your goal is to prevent injuries by addressing dangerous situations. If they do not report unsafe conditions, they increase the risk of injury to their coworkers and to themselves. That's what you mean when you tell them that safety is everyone's responsibility.