What Is Near Miss Reporting?

By Brian Sugarman on May 15, 2021
Tags: Construction, Safety

construction worker filling out near miss reports on phone

It’s impossible to stress how important workplace safety is for a successful business. Proper safety protocols and procedures not only protect your valuable team and assets but prevent costly disruptions to efficiency and production. Even the safest workplaces have incidents and accidents, though. Routine reporting of any accidents to analyze risk and safety procedures is an essential step in tackling issues and refining policies to provide a safer workplace.

Though “near miss” incidents –incidents where no one harm was done but potentially could’ve been– reveal the same vulnerabilities in safety procedure, they are often neglected in reporting. Below, we’ll discuss the advantages of diligently reporting near misses, and the advantages an organization can gain by taking all incidents seriously while developing its safety ecosystem.

 

What is a near miss report?

OSHA defines a near miss incident as a close call in which a worker might have been hurt if the circumstances had been slightly different. Beyond the scope of the OSHA definition, many organizations also include potential harm to valuable equipment or infrastructure as near miss incidents. Near miss reports should be filed with the same diligence as every other incident, as they still shed light on vulnerabilities in safety protocols.

Near miss incidents are often reported through the same means for normal incident reports. An organization should account for these reports and be able to accept both while still being able to differentiate between the two. If your company is using a comprehensive safety management solution, users are able to quickly and anonymously submit reports of either near miss, or typical incidents from a mobile app.

Near miss reports should be taken seriously, and they should be treated with the same importance as harmful incident reports. Near miss incidents not only can shake up workers’ morale when they see vulnerabilities in safety protocols first-hand, but they can shed valuable light on problems allowing them to be rectified before serious harm occurs. Organizations that have a healthy reporting system for near miss reports will not only suffer less costly incidents but increase morale by proving to workers that safety is important if proper attention is applied to reports.

 

The advantages of near miss reporting

Organizations can’t afford to neglect near miss reporting. Near misses can easily be early warning signs of problems to come and represent vulnerabilities in safety that can’t be overlooked. Incorporating reporting for near miss incidents into safety and operations planning can have many advantages that can be leveraged by organizations to increase safety and efficiency overall.

 

Identify and control risks before incidents happen

Near miss reporting can be important warnings of more serious issues. Paying the same attention to investigating near miss incidents as you would a serious injury can yield valuable insights into safety issues without the monetary cost of serious injury or incident.

OSHA outlines the importance of root cause analysis during incident investigation in a 2016 fact sheet, saying “By conducting a root cause analysis and addressing root causes, an employer may be able to substantially or completely prevent the same or similar incident from recurring. Conducting the same root cause analysis on near miss incidents informs your safety policy, potentially preventing harmful incidents before they occur.

Near miss reporting is often described as a free lesson because it enables companies to proactively resolve hazards before a tragic or costly incident occurs. When a worker discovers a potentially dangerous situation, completing a near miss report means the risk can be resolved before it causes harm to their teammates.

 

Create a culture of safety

When your crew knows that their safety is a priority within your business, morale inevitably goes up. Providing your workers with the resources and training to identify and report near misses helps them know that their well-being is an important aspect of daily operations. This encourages them to be more safety-minded in all their duties and can increase compliance and reporting across your entire organization. Safety culture develops from example. As your employees see that safety is an organizationally fundamental value for your company, it will become a culturally important value to them.

It is vitally important to train your crew on what defines a near miss, why it is important to report such hazards, and to lay out a clear reporting process. Many organizations streamline the reporting process with safety management software that includes established checklists and forms for near miss reports. Using a digital solution gives workers the opportunity for anonymous reporting and improves efficiency and mistakes by limiting paperwork.

If cultivating a culture of safety within your organization starts with training and example, it ends with trust. The goal of near miss reports is to keep your workers safe and get them looking out for possible risks. Positive safety culture comes when your team trusts that you are looking out for their best interest, but if your investigations are focused on blame rather than root cause analysis and risk mitigation, your safety culture can quickly begin to feel like a witch hunt to your employees. This discourages their participation in safety reporting and procedures and disengages them as a whole from safety culture.

As near miss incidents have no damage or accident, they are an excellent opportunity to show your team that reporting is about focusing on their safety in the future, not about assigning blame and punishing mistakes. This promotes a culture where employees feel comfortable reporting incidents and safety shortcomings, which promotes a safer and more efficient business.

 

Inform protocols and training

Safety managers can use data from near miss reporting to improve training programs, develop safer work processes, educate personnel at daily safety meetings, and fix any faulty equipment that could lead to an accident. Prevention is the core of safety, and proactive safety programs can be developed from compiling near miss data, giving employers the opportunity to resolve systemic risks and provide their crew with the latest safety measures on a daily basis.

Workplace safety is impossible without sufficient training to inform workers of possible risks and how to safely manage tasks. Near miss reporting gives important data about possible incidents and accidents, allowing the development of more comprehensive training to prevent issues in the future.

Without adequate near miss reporting, systemic safety issues don’t become obvious until costly accidents already occur. Near miss reports give an organization the opportunity to address close calls as warning signs to refine their procedures going forward.

 

Communication, transparency, and compliance

Maintaining, investigating, and acting on reports for near miss incidents can ensure compliance with various human resources and safety regulations. While regulatory requirements will vary greatly depending on location, more transparency and a documented history of an effort to improve safety will always be of benefit to compliance.

More data potentially could shield you from liabilities in the future. History of acting to rectify safety issues revealed by near miss incidents can be a strong refutation of future negligence suits or fines. Transparency is important in communication with investors as well and proving that you have a track record of promoting safety as an organization is promising for them to see.

 

Safe workers for a successful business

Safe workers are much more likely to be happy workers in the long run. If no action was taken on a near miss incident, workers will be more worried and timid, and may actually find temporary solutions to the problem that are even less safe. If near miss incidents aren’t taken seriously or even accepted at all, it can make workers feel like their employer does not care about their safety. This can destroy morale and make productivity and profitability suffer.  Worst, it puts the people who make your organization run at risk. Employers have a responsibility to protect their employees. Employees are happier, more engaged, and more productive when they see this duty being met.

 

A comprehensive safety management program

A safety management program that neglects near miss reports is missing one of its biggest assets to develop sustainable solutions. Such a system will never reach its potential in preventative safety. Near miss incident reporting is absolutely required to see problems before they arise to better craft safety procedures that avoid those issues in the future.

Near miss incident reports can also serve to engage employees in safety programs. This personnel is your first line of defense against risks, and they should know it. Communicating to your team that they can help manage risk with reporting of near miss incidents along with showing them that the organization will act to improve safety based on those reports will help build a culture of safety that can vastly improve the effectiveness of a safety management program.

Streamlining a safety management program to accommodate near miss reporting can be easily accomplished with safety management software. These solutions offer standardization of documentation and convenient reporting for all types of incidents. The increased accessibility of remote access and mobile compatibility not only make personnel more likely to document incidents but also make it more efficient to process and compile data from reports.

GoCanvas offers comprehensive security management software solutions that can give you the tools you need to increase safety and efficiency. Incident reports can be entered remotely and fielded immediately, cutting out any time-consuming red tape, so you can react to risks more quickly, more efficiently, and more effectively. Click here to see how safety management software can help you today.