“A near miss at work is a close call that could have been a very serious injury,” says LIUNA General President Terry O’Sullivan. “This is why it should not pass unreported and uninvestigated. Treating a near miss as if it wasn’t a miss, as if someone did get hurt, reduces the likelihood of injuries in the future.”
OSHA defines a near miss as an incident where no property was damaged and no personal injury sustained, but where, given a slight shift in time or position, damage and/or injury easily could have occurred. In other words, a near miss is a wake-up call to a problem at the jobsite that needs to be addressed (see LIFELINES, Was Anyone Almost Hurt on Your Worksite Today?).
No matter how minor it may appear to be, employees should be encouraged to report every near miss. When an incident occurs without injuries and workers do not report it because they do not understand the need or because they are afraid they will be blamed, the circumstances that led to the event are likely to be repeated until an injury or death does happen. According to the National Safety Council, incidents that have caused serious injury or loss of life are seldom bolts out of the blue. Most of the time, they have been preceded by one or more near misses.
An effective program to encourage near miss reporting includes:
- Educating workers on the importance of near miss reporting.
- Implementing a near miss reporting process that is easy to use, anonymous and has supervisor support.
- When a near miss occurs, calling safety meetings to discuss what happened, what could have happened and what can be done to prevent it from happening again.
- Using near miss reporting to improve worksite safety and letting workers know when improved measures result from near miss reporting.
“A near miss that goes unreported has a very good chance of being tomorrow’s accident,” says O’Sullivan. “Study your worksite and implement measures to prevent ‘the one that almost happened’ from ever becoming ‘one that did.'”
[Janet Lubman Rathner]