Are employees reporting near miss events?

Date Posted: 04/04/2022
Near miss incident - Tripping on Rug

You can’t fix hazards if you don't know about them, so employees should report near miss incidents. These events are accidents waiting to happen. If you don’t get any near miss reports, does this mean they never happen, or does it mean employees don’t report them? If employees don't report hazards to you, they might still call OSHA, and you don't want that.

Employees may not report near miss events if they worry about getting blamed. Similarly, an employee who witnesses a near miss may worry about getting a coworker in trouble, or fear that the coworker will later retaliate.

To address these concerns, some employers set up anonymous tip lines. Unfortunately, these often fail for two reasons. First, if only a few employees witnessed a near miss, everyone can likely identify who reported it. Second, anonymous reports prevent an open discussion of the situation, and that’s essential to corrective action.

If employees don’t report hazards for fear of blame or retaliation, you need to address and dispel those fears.

Start with training

To address retaliation concerns, explain that your objective is protecting workers, not assigning blame. Point out that employees suffer the consequences from accidents and you want to keep them safe. In addition, point out that the company is responsible for training them to work safely, so if a problem arises, the company may be at fault. Discipline should not occur unless several reminders fail to correct a previously identified problem.

Next, ask employees how they'd feel if they witnessed a near miss, didn't report it, and the next incident caused a serious injury. They might have prevented the injury by reporting the hazard. Also, remind them that they could get injured if someone else didn’t report a hazard.

Finally, explain that you need their help to identify hazards. If they don’t report hazards or near miss events, everyone is at greater risk of injury. That’s why safety is everyone’s responsibility.

Providing training on hazard recognition may help. Employees should immediately report things like unstable pallet stacks or unlabeled chemical containers. Once they see that no one gets in trouble for reporting these hazards, they should be more comfortable reporting near misses.

Give examples

Can employees recognize a near miss? If these events are common, employees might think they are normal — and that's not good. A near miss is defined as an incident that did not cause property damage or injury, but could have caused damage or injury if the circumstances had been slightly different. If not addressed, the same circumstances will likely occur again, but may not be a “miss” next time.

Describe some possible near miss incidents and ask employees if they've seen anything similar. If no one volunteers a story, give a few examples and discuss how the near miss could have caused a serious injury. Ask employees to consider what could be done to prevent those incidents. Again, remind everyone to report any near misses.

Examples of near miss incidents (and example causes) might include:

  • An employee working on a ladder loses his balance, but recovers before falling. (The worker did not maintain three points of contact, or leaned out to one side.)
  • An employee was nearly struck by a forklift. (The forklift operator failed to sound the horn at an intersection, or could not see around the load carried.)
  • A stack of empty pallets falls over, but does not strike anyone. (Damaged pallets were not discarded or repaired, resulting in an unstable stack.)

Make the reporting process simple, and remind them to report hazards immediately even if they interrupt work to do so. They shouldn’t wait until the end of the shift to report a hazard that could cause an injury.

Once employees start reporting near misses, you can look for patterns. You probably already review your 300 Log to identify hazards. However, if your 300 Log has enough injuries to identify hazard patterns, you're probably behind the curve. Tracking near miss incidents can help identify and address hazards before injuries happen.

How Safety Management Suite Can Help

In addition to helping you track recordable injuries for your OSHA 300 Log, the Incident Center in the J. J. Keller® SAFETY MANAGEMENT SUITE allows you to record near miss cases. The tool also allows you to sort cases by type so you can generate a report of near miss incidents and identify potential hazards. Once identified, you can address those hazards to prevent future injuries.

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