Near miss reporting, or a 'near miss' the term, is effectively an unplanned event that did not result in an injury, an illness, damage or product or service loss, but importantly, it had the potential to do so.
The difference between a near miss and a full-blown incident is often just simply a fraction of a second, or a fraction of an inch, that may not be there the next time the situation occurs. Near misses should be seen as warnings of potential incidents and accidents in the making that could damage your organisation and your people within it.
Why should we report near misses?
Industry and statistics tell us, that a significant number of near misses, if they go unnoticed, unrecorded, and un-investigated, could potentially result in a significant injury, or loss, or damage to an organisation and worst-case scenario could potentially be the driving factor and contributing factor to a fatality.
If near misses are not reported, then it's not possible to investigate them, and it's not possible to identify what the problems are the root causes and the contributing factors. As a result, any learning that we could find from near misses that we could address and correct, mean that these problems, these issues are still at risk within an organisation.
Let's think about near misses as providing us with an indication that something is not quite right, that we have some weakness in our systems and that they should be seen as a warning. We should see that every near miss that is reported has a potential to drive improvement within our organisation.
Why not ignore them?
Ignoring a near miss, and a condition that could lead to this near miss, is an open invitation for an accident or incident or error within our organisation to occur.
It's important that we embrace near miss reporting. It's important from a leadership, communication awareness point of view, that we drive this culture within an organisation, that near miss reporting and observation reporting is a positive factor.
Based on the information that we get, if we do not ignore it, it can allow us to analyse, look at statistics and effectively see hotspots in our organisation that can drive us to make improvements.
Ultimately, we want to do that in a preventative measure, so that we are not reacting to genuine incidents and genuine accidents. We want to do this so that we can prevent that slip, that few seconds of a difference not happening, and therefore the error or accident not occurring
It’s also important that we embrace this within our organisation as ultimately, we want to become an organisation that has a culture of openly communicating, openly reporting of what potential near misses we have in our organisation.
Let's think about a few examples here
Remember, the difference between a near miss and a serious or fatal injury could just be a few seconds or a few inches. Having this information at hand, allows us to address these potentials very quickly.
A couple of takeaways
Raise more awareness about hazards from human error in our workplace.
Always report, investigate and address near misses.
It's important that we don't just report near misses, we have to do something with that information.
We have to monitor it and analyse it, so that we can raise awareness and communication about the vital improvement activities that we do as a result of the near miss reporting. And of course, one of the real positive elements from a human factors point of view is that if your organisation is pushing to report safety and hazard observations or near misses, it provides feedback to the workforce, that it is taking the time to generate this information and report it appropriately.
Provide them with the feedback of the statistics of what you're finding and the actions that you're taking to address these potential accidents and incidents in the workplace.
Near miss reporting, can drive significant improvements throughout an organisation but it has to be embraced by everyone in the organisation, and it has to be led from a top down approach. Organisations that do not like to see safety observations, near misses and hazards being reported when there has not been a genuine incident, are missing an opportunity to drive improvement, and importantly, missing an opportunity to address a potential fatal or major incident that could just be around the corner.