June 22, 2018

So, Where Are You With Near Misses

The National Safety Council defines a “near miss” as an unplanned event that did not result in an injury, illness or damage, but could have. Here’s the problem: near-miss incidents are too easy to dismiss with a “no harm, no foul” attitude. They are “just close calls.” But ignoring and not reporting these close calls is an invitation for a disaster to happen the next time.

ConstructionEquipment.com has been studying near misses, looking at why they go unreported when reporting a “non incident” would actually lay groundwork to prevent the real deal in the future.

Here are eight common reasons they found for near misses going unreported:

  1. Complacency. It is tempting to become comfortable with the way things are and be willing to put up with minor inconveniences when it is seems easier than fixing the situation. Even when one knows the chance for damage or injury is greater due to the current set-up or procedure, two fallacies can override reason: “it won’t happen to me” and “it’s not my problem.”
  2. Concerns about a bad reaction. Workers expect they might be blamed or disciplined for a near miss incident, or perhaps they have seen a co- worker treated badly after getting injured on the job.
  3. Complicated. If the process of filing a report is overly involved or confusing or too time-consuming, workers will hesitate to submit a report.
  4. Peer pressure. Coworkers can see reporting a near miss as the action of a hero or a zero. If the person reporting the near miss is seen as trying to get on management’s good side, he may be less likely to report a near miss, especially if it happens to one of his coworkers.
  5. Reputation and embarrassment. Workers can feel that reporting near misses makes them appear to be accident prone, especially if their co- workers are not reporting theirs. Sometimes there is a “macho” environment where battle scars are badges of honor and where workers don’t want to come across as weak.
  6. Interruption. Everyone has deadlines and quotas. Reporting a near miss means, at the least, stopping to fill out a report and possibly several hours of additional down time.
  7. Red tape and bureaucracy. Many of us have a natural aversion to filling out paperwork. If workers think that filing a near-miss report is going to turn into hours of meetings and additional paperwork, they may not chose to file a report in the first place.
  8. Lack of feedback. When a worker files a near-miss report and does not get any feedback as to how the situation was rectified, or is not acknowledged in a positive way for filing the report, it is a disincentive to ever file a near-miss report again.

It all comes down to prevention

Near misses are just one degree short of an actual incident. When reported and assessed to get at root causes, it enables those causes to be resolved.

Near-miss reporting should be as simple, straightforward and effective as it can be. Reporting a near miss is very important to preventing actual serious, fatal and catastrophic incidents in the future. An incident prevented because precautions were taken at the near-miss stage could save the livelihood or even the life of oneself or a valued coworker.

So, where do you stand with near misses?