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Why Do So Many Employees Struggle to Get their Workforce to Report Near Misses? Practical Tips for Improving Near Miss Reporting

what is a near miss in the workplace

Near miss reporting is a vital component to any health and safety management system. It serves as a key metric in identifying the various potential hazards present in a workplace. It also helps organisations obtain insight into problem areas and gain information that can help prevent future accidents.

In fact, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has estimated that there are roughly 90 near misses for every accident.

However, for near miss reporting to work, it is essential that the proper systems are in place to support it and use the data once it is collected.

In this article, we will take the opportunity to explore what employers need to know about near miss reporting, including what they are, why reporting them is essential, the obstacles to doing so, and some practical tips to overcoming them.

What is a Near Miss?

A near miss is an incident that does not cause harm but carries the potential to cause injury, illness, or property damage.

Here are some common examples of near misses that happen in different work environments.

  • A factory worker trips on the cable of equipment being operated by another worker. Due to poor lighting, visibility is reduced and the cable wasn’t seen. But the first worker manages to steady himself – no harm done.
  • An office worker accidently spills her beverage on the floor. Another worker steps on the spillage and slips, but quickly grabs the table and prevents himself from falling completely.
  • A restaurant worker tries to exit the kitchen through a push door. Due to poor door design, the worker fails to notice another person trying to enter the kitchen at the same time. When the door opens, it knocks the worker back. The worker manages to steady himself by grabbing the table.
  • A construction worker cuts across a traffic lane to move from the pedestrian access route to the site. A heavy tipping truck comes around the corner, nearly hitting the pedestrian. But the driver spots him in time and stops.

Why Near Miss Reporting Is Essential

Research has shown that the vast majority of workplace accidents, however minor, follow a pattern in which the actual event is preceded often by a large number of near misses. Accidents are relatively rare events and so trends are hard to discern.

Alternatively, there are always many more near misses and so it’s possible to get a clear picture of how we are performing. Another reason to report and track near misses is that waiting for accidents and ill health to occur is too late. Monitoring near misses is an upstream pre-injury measurement. This is absolutely vital as it helps to identify where we need to improve before accidents occur.

On the other hand, if we only collect data on when things go wrong – such as when accidents and ill health have already occurred – we are only looking at one part of the picture. By collecting data on positive performance, including near misses, we get a much clearer idea of how our health and safety systems are working.

Why Employers Struggle to Near Miss Reporting From their Employees

Although misses are prevalent in many workplaces, employees are often reluctant to timely report them or report them at all. As an employer, it is your moral and legal duty to build a safe and trusting relation with your employees so such incidents can be recorded and worked on.

Some reasons why they may not be reported include:

Unnecessary Incentivisation

Many organisations provide incentives or a general quota for near-misses. This practice may be well-intentioned but can undermine many procedures that are vital to the company’s health, safety and financial security. Such reporting culture promotes a good relationship with your employees, but the end results can fall short of expectations.

Fear of Being Punished

Often, employees avoid reporting near misses to escape the potential consequences of committing a mistake. As an employer, you are responsible for building a trusting relationship with your workforce prioritised on a safety-first approach. It is your job to encourage employees in reporting unsafe work conditions whenever possible. This can be done professionally by training your workers through near miss reporting courses.

Fear of Looking Bad

Many workers, and people in general, do not like to admit mistakes, especially when that mistake could be broadcast to their colleagues. The reluctance is usually a result of fear in being seen as weak or accident prone between the co-workers or the management. This is where having a positive and open workplace culture is important. Everyone must understand that reporting a near miss is, in fact, a good thing.

Difficulty Identifying Them

In other cases, there are instances where workers do not have sufficient training to identify and report a near miss. Providing the right training to your workforce is critical in ensuring potential hazards are timely dealt with. If an incident happens and goes unreported, it may persist and injure someone unconscious about the hazard.

Unaware of Reporting Process

Receiving near miss reporting training is also important for properly communicating the incident to the correction authority. Organisations that struggle with issues in near miss reporting are known to have complex reporting procedures. Ideally, the reporting process must be straightforward with minimum steps and fast reporting channels.

Lack of Motivation

When a near miss occurs, employees do not see the benefit of reporting the incident and ignore its consequences. This can endanger many others who are unaware of the incident. As an employer, you can offer special incentives to encourage your workers in reporting dangerous occurrences in the workplace.

How to Improve Near Miss Reporting?

Ideally, you want your staff to go beyond just reporting the obvious near misses. Safety observation extends the scope of reporting to things that could contribute to an accident further down the line. So, you must remain completely aware of your safety environment and systematically improve it by implementing solutions to the problems you are struggling with.

Here are six proven tips to get your workers in reporting near misses and safety observations.

Make Reporting Easy

Reporting should be made easy and systematic. This includes adapting to modern technology to make reporting accessible and accurate. For example, if an employee experiences or observes a potentially dangerous occurrence, they can swiftly report the incident through their mobile device to the supervisor.

This can save a significant amount of time and help management promptly take corrective action before an accident occurs.

Make it User-friendly

It is also important to make reporting organised and user-friendly, rather than just an exercise. Implementing digital forms and online reporting systems can minimise the effort spent conveying the issue and help reach solutions in real-time.

Further, it can be integrated with your data systems to save time spent entering basic details about the employee and the near miss location.

Increase Synergy

Making reporting more sociable through collaboration and teamwork is a great way to improve near miss reporting in a workplace. Organising reporting into departments and imbuing a sense of competition can help increase workers’ morale and capture livelier responses.

In addition, you can share the data with the teams and provide feedback to show their performance in identifying and reporting potential hazards.

Respond Quickly

The faster a hazard is identified, the quicker it can be investigated and fixed to prevent an accident. Again, using modern technology can be instrumental in reporting information and obtaining responses.

However, it is also crucial to provide timely feedback to acknowledge your workers’ efforts. The best practice is to review the near miss and provide feedback individually to the reporter. Tools such as Human focus alert systems and e-Checklists can help to ensure near misses are handled appropriately and in a timely manner.

Create Examples

As a duty holder, you must show your employees the importance of communicating near misses by implementing corrective actions openly and energetically.

There is no better way to create an example about the importance of reporting potentially harmful incidents than taking a prompt action on the risk centre.

This will show them the benefits of reporting and make a difference in the attitudes of those who are reluctant in reporting misses.

Prioritise Reporting & Taking Action

Understanding data and determining criticality is a key component of near miss reporting. Therefore, it is essential to set up a priority system for handling high risk and low risk incidents.

Categorisation of occurrences can help streamline reporting and correspondence, administer resources on risk levels, and apply corrective measures based on the urgency of the incident.

You can specify topics and add grading to areas in your workplace so near misses can be responded based on the type of equipment, location, and severity of the situation. For example, a gas leak incident will hold precedence over a fluid spill incident when reporting.

Provide Adequate Near Miss Reporting

In order to report near misses, employees must understand what near misses are, why they are important, how to report them, and what happens when they do. This is why providing adequate training is essential.

It enables your employees to assess risks, determine criticality, apply correct procedures, and prevent the issue from occurring again.

As an employer, it is your responsibility to provide necessary training to your workers. The reactive nature of such safety programs has repeatedly shown to prevent both serious and catastrophic incidents in workplaces. Health and safety providers such as Human Focus offer comprehensive incident reporting training courses that can be accessed online at the ease of your location.

In Summary

To ensure that you are doing your legal duty to proactively prevent accidents and incidents within your organisation, it is essential to ensure near miss reporting systems are in place. They provide vital information about how your organisation is doing when it comes to health and safety. They can also serve as a predictor of when something may be about to go wrong.

However, near miss reporting will not happen on its own. Employers must proactively work to encourage that it occurs and that this vital data is acted upon. This means ensuring the right systems are in place to support employees and a positive culture of health and safety is fostered. It also means ensuring those in charge understand how near miss reporting works.

Providing the right training is vital to this process. Human Focus offers a range of online training courses that cover near miss reporting awareness – for frontline workers. We also offer extensive training for managers that gives guidance on how to operate a proactive health and safety management system.

About the author(s)

Joe Vickers
Mirza Irfan Ahmed Barlas
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