How do you measure what did not occur? A near-miss incident on job sites traditionally is defined as one that leaves no injuries, no property or equipment damages and little or no evidence that it even occurred. As a result, companies often ignore near-miss incidents.
However, companies that experience world-class safety performance know that when reported and acted upon, near misses enable early intervention, and are great opportunities to improve organizational safety performance.
"Near Miss Reporting – a Missing Link in Safety Culture," a peer-reviewed feature in the May issue of Professional Safety, examines several studies that have shown that near misses greatly outnumber serious accidents involving fatality, injury or property damage. For example, a 1993 study by Health and Safety Executive researchers found that for every lost time injury more than three days in length there were 189 non-injury cases.
However, many organizations and their employees remain resistant to near-miss reporting, mostly because there is no universal definition of a near miss, there’s fear of punishment or retaliation for a near-miss report, peer pressure, concern about record and reputation, the inconvenience of filling out a near-miss report and the desire of some employers to maintain the status quo.
“We want to develop a culture that doesn’t wait until someone is injured, but identifies the risk before it happens,” explained the article’s author Mike Williamsen, Ph.D., CSP who added that it is important to develop a safety culture that engages all employees. “We have to engage people on the front line to eliminate personal risks.”
Referring to near-miss reporting as a “personal risk assessment,” Williamsen offers several solutions to overcoming the barriers to reporting near-misses in his article, that can be put into place to achieve what he calls a culture-based safety system:
- Define expectations that all employees report unsafe conditions or perceived risks
- Provide employees with safety training
- Provide measurement for how near-miss reporting has improved safety performance
- Recognize and reward employees and crews for pro-active safety actions.
Professional Safety is published by the American Society of Safety Engineers.