Seventy-five percent of all accidents are preceded by one or more near misses, according to the National Safety Council. So, if you’re trying to reduce the number of injuries and incidents with property damage and other incidentrelated loss, it makes sense to measure and manage your near misses.
Why Near Misses Are So Important
It’s been recognized that focusing on minor incidents, including near misses provides the wherewithal to reduce the probability of major incidents. Near misses occur much more frequently than serious incidents. They’re also smaller in scale, simpler to analyze and easier to resolve. Working from the top down, major incidents can often be
Working from the top down, major incidents can often be traced back to several minor ones that happened earlier. By addressing the causes of these “precursor events,” you can prevent the major events from ever occurring.
9 Step Workplan for Near Miss Management
Near miss reporting, investigation and correction have become common practice. And like other safety activities, years of practice have provided insight on near miss management. Research from the Wharton Business School and others has identified several hallmarks of an effective near miss management program:
1: Define “Near Miss” Broadly The first thing researchers noticed is that at companies that manage them effectively, the term “near miss” is defined broadly to include not just events but things like unsafe conditions and unsafe behaviors. The definition recommended by the researchers to maximize near miss management effectiveness: “A near miss is an opportunity to improve health and safety in a workplace based on a condition or an incident with potential for more serious consequences.”
2: Setup Clear and Simple Reporting Procedures You can’t manage near misses and learn from them unless you know they’re occurring. So once a near miss is identified, it should be reported, preferably in writing, by either the person who identified the near miss or by a supervisor to whom a near miss was reported to.
3: Provide Training Workers may be reluctant to report near misses. They may be afraid of being disciplined if the near miss involved a violation of your safety rules or procedures. Or they may not believe management will actually do anything to improve safety if they report a near miss. So, they stay mum about their close calls.
To overcome workers’ reluctance to reporting near misses, train them on the value of near misses and their role in properly managing these events.
- 4: Prioritize Near Miss Incidents Once near misses are reported, you need to prioritize them to determine:
- What steps to take next;
- How much attention to give the incident;
- How deeply to analyze its causes;
- The resources available to implement solutions; and
- How, if at all, you’ll disseminate information about the incident throughout the company
5: Distribute Relevant Information Companies that manage near misses effectively do a good job of distributing appropriate information about the incident.
6: Determine the Cause Near miss management requires identification of indirect and direct causes of an incident. Don’t hesitate to form investigative teams when the causes of incidents aren’t readily apparent.
7: Determine Solutions The next hallmark of effective near miss management is to determine one or more solutions to the identified causes. Of course, hazard elimination is always the preferred solution; but the system must provide for hazard management or control where total elimination isn’t feasible.
8: Implement Solutions Once you identify the necessary solutions, implement them and inform anyone affected by the near miss, such as workers and supervisors who work with the equipment involved or in that section of the workplace. And if the solution includes new or revised safety procedures, make sure to train all workers who’ll have to use these procedures.
9: Monitor Solutions The final phase of near miss management is monitoring the changes made to ensure that they effectively address the causes of the near miss incident. In addition, remedying one problem can sometimes create other unforeseen hazards, particularly for subtle changes. Thus, managing these changes and ensuring no new hazards are created is critical to the success of a near miss program. And make sure that the person who reported the near miss is aware of the outcome of this process.
Near misses are a largely untapped safety improvement resource. An effective near miss management program can help you tap the potential of this valuable source of safety information and use it to improve your workplace’s overall safety program.