What if you could anticipate dangerous situations before they happened? You could fix the problem preventatively, totally mitigating the risk to your workers? The solution to this issue is to take some time in developing a protocol for reporting ‘Near Misses’….a proactive vs. a reactive approach.
A near miss, often referred to as a close call, occurs when an incident happens that does not result in an interruption in production, personal injury, equipment or environmental damage. In other words, it’s a key warning sign, that is often ignored, that requires certain precautions to be put in place so the situation doesn’t become an accident. The near miss is, in reality, an accident waiting to happen.
During my time working in workplace safety, I have rarely encountered an incident that was a “one-off” occurrence. In almost every case, during the incident investigation I will hear about near misses that had happened, sometimes for years, that never were reported or corrected. This is clearly a problem that is not unique to one organization, but is widespread across many companies.
One issue in particular from the past stands out as the perfect example of why the reporting of near misses is so important. I was investigating an accident where an employee had lost a few fingers working with a machine. It didn’t take very long before I had a line of other workers telling me about the hundreds of close calls they’d had working with the same equipment. The unfortunate thing is that if the fellow workers been more vocal when this had happened to them, this worker’s life-altering injury would have been prevented.
What is needed in most organizations is to develop a positive safety culture, where employees understand that it is in their own best interests to report these potentially dangerous situations. We should never be investigating an incident and hear the refrain of ‘nothing happened so I didn’t think it was a big deal.’ We need our workers to understand that every close call is a big deal.
Developing a protocol that employees see as valuable, in order to track these near misses, can be one of the most proactive tools that we have at our disposal in accident prevention.