EHS OutLoud Blog

Learning from a Near Miss

Guest blogger Aaron J. Morrow is a safety consultant, an OSHA 500 trainer, a Cal/OSHA 5109 trainer and a construction risk insurance specialist.

Learning from a Near Miss

By Aaron J. Morrow

I’m not much of a gambling man (minus the occasional “I bet you can’t make that in the trash from here” challenge) but even so, I'd bet the house that each one of us has had multiple “close calls” throughout our lives.

For example, say you’re driving when your favorite song comes on the radio and you reach over to crank up the volume. Or maybe your phone rings and you look over to see who it is, or you start to drift into a daydream where you are the king and everyone obeys your every command … or maybe that’s just me. In any case, when you look up, you see bright red brake lights right in front of you.

You slam on your brakes, the tires start to smoke and you brace yourself for impact. Thankfully, you just barely miss getting into an accident. After you take a deep breath and your heart stops pounding out of your chest, you think to yourself, “I need to be more careful.”

Investigating Near Misses

A near miss is sometimes defined as an unplanned event that did not result in injury, illness or damage, but had the potential to do so. Only a fortunate break in the chain of events prevented an injury, fatality or damage. It’s easy to shrug off a near miss and not report it or make a big deal out of it, but in reality, it should immediately send up a warning flag that something was wrong, unplanned or unexpected. What’s more, it could happen again.

For every near miss or accident, there are usually several contributing factors, most of which can be controlled. The best way to prevent the reoccurrence of an accident is by looking at those close calls. If you investigate the causes of a near miss, you can take steps to eliminate the hazard.

All close calls or near-miss incidents should be reported to your supervisor so solutions can be sought to prevent an accident or injury from occurring. Solutions may involve engineering controls, administrative controls, additional training or increased communication between management and workers.

Finally, a near miss is a cheaper learning tool than learning from an actual injury or property loss accident. In fact, it represents almost zero cost.

So remember – the next time you barely avoid an accident, don’t simply pass it off as a lucky break. Examine what happened and how that same close call can be prevented from endangering you or someone else in the future.

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