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4 Ways to Improve Near-miss Reporting

A worker wearing a hard hat writes a near-miss report

As safety reports go, accident/incident investigations typically consume more time, energy and resources than near-miss reporting. As important as it is to investigate these types of incidents and take appropriate corrective action, it is equally important to investigate near-miss reports because like accident/incident investigations they can play a large role in preventing future incidents.

Whether you’re implementing a near-miss reporting system or your current system isn’t producing the results you want, here are four suggestions for encouraging workers to report minor incidents and near misses.

1. Explain the process to all employees

Employees are more willing to cooperate when they know all of the specifics:

  • Why is the company adopting a near-miss reporting system?
  • How will the information be used?
  • What’s in it for them?
  • Where do they access the card or electronic form?
  • How should they fill it out?
  • What kind of feedback will they receive afterward?

Employees also need to know where to turn them in. Some companies prefer a drop box, and others want them to be handed to a joint health and safety committee representative, safety committee team member or a supervisor. Whatever collection system you use, it should be easily accessible and communicated to every worker.

2. Analyze and act on the data

Each report should be read immediately and its data entered into a spreadsheet or other data collection system for later analysis. Where the severity of a near miss is high and it’s probable that the same thing could happen to another employee, immediate corrective action should be taken.

Corrective action should not be punitive or near-miss reports can quickly dry up. Typically, actions resulting from near-miss reports range from an engineering control (a better cut-off switch or better machine guarding) or an administrative control (requiring that another person be present when the task is performed), to encouraging the use of one or more of the critical error reduction techniques on a consistent basis or working on a specific safety-related habit.

Aggregate data should also be examined regularly for any trends and to ensure that near misses are consistently being reported.

3. Communicate the results to employees at all levels of the organization

Employees can learn from the experience of others through a safety alert posted on a bulletin board or in a toolbox talk. Supervisors and trainers should be advised of trends that appear in near-miss reports so they can address recurring issues in safety meetings or toolbox talks. The safety department can also communicate with sister plants about incidents that are serious and relevant to their operations.

4. Integrate other training and techniques into the card or form you use

A near-miss report form or card should be integrated with other safety initiatives. Integration will help sustain any additional training, provide consistency throughout your safety program and make it easier for employees to fill out a near-miss report by using language they’re already familiar with. Inserting concepts from other safety training directly into near-miss reports will also allow you to track that training’s performance and level of understanding among employees.

When implemented correctly, near-miss reporting can improve your ability to identify gaps in your safety system before an injury or property damage occurs. Adding a near-miss reporting system to what you are already doing for accident/incident investigation will help you learn from incidents where no one was hurt or the injuries were very minimal. You’ll then be able to take action and reduce the risk of injuries in the future.

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