There are a few different schools of thought on what constitutes a ‘near miss’s in the world of workplace incidents but the general consensus is that a near miss is exactly what it sounds like; almost an accident. A close call. Officially, The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) defines a near miss as “an event not causing harm, but has the potential to cause injury or ill health.”
It’s absolutely crucial for the health, safety and wellbeing of your employees that you instill a sense of responsibility from the top down when it comes to making sure near misses are not ignored. If near misses are treated as major warnings or red flags rather than simple ‘lucky escapes’ to laugh off with colleagues, it’s highly likely that your dangerous occurrence rate will decrease because parameters leading up to the near miss can be properly investigated, and in turn, future risk minimised.
Additionally, it’s vital that you implement a very clear protocol for reporting near misses and in doing so, dangerous situations can be prevented from reoccurring and hazards (we’ll touch more on hazards shortly) that maybe hadn’t been considered before are exposed.
The UK’s government agency responsible for the encouragement, regulation and enforcement of workplace health, safety and welfare estimates that there are around ninety near misses that precede every workplace accident, which is quite an alarming statistic. In plain English, it means that before it happened there were up to ninety opportunities to avoid an incident resulting in an injury of any kind or worse, a fatality.
Tell us again why near misses aren’t worth reporting? Can you imagine if a near miss was reported the first, fifth, even the fortieth time before an accident occurred? What lives plagued with injury could have been lived to the full? How many lives could have potentially been saved? Even if it’s just one, reporting a near miss is worth doing.
Is there a difference between a hazard and a near miss?
It’s nuanced and the two words are often confused but yes, there’s a difference. A hazard is an object or situation that could cause injury or harm to the workforce, the environment or to property. A near miss is an incident that could cause injury or harm to the workforce, the environment or to property. To further explain the similarities but also the differences, imagine someone, let’s call them worker A, is working at a height without a helmet, they slip and almost fall. The obvious hazard in this situation is the not wearing of a helmet. The near miss is that they almost fell while not wearing adequate PPE, but didn’t.
We know that once the near miss has been reported, ideally, a full investigation detailing the date and time, how the near miss happened and what can be done to prevent reoccurrence should take place. In reality, worker A thanks their lucky stars, laughs it off with colleagues, maybe buys a lottery ticket, but does nothing about it in terms of reporting.
The next week, worker B thinks health and safety is lax because they’ve seen some of their colleagues without helmets and doesn’t wear one. While working at a height, they slip and fall, resulting in bad concussion and a broken leg; they cannot work for three months. The business is impacted financially, production slows down and worker B now suffers from depression because they are unable to support their family.
The moral of our little anecdote is that near misses (and hazards) should always be reported. If worker A had access to smart health and safety reporting software and knew how to use it, it’s highly probable that worker B would have worn a helmet and the unstable scaffolding board that caused both workers to slip but one to actually fall would have been replaced.
Is it time to think about how to reduce the number of dangerous occurrences that happen in your workplace? Or, are you looking to overhaul how your company reports hazards, accidents and near misses? What if we told you an app on a smartphone could send data to a bespoke dashboard and generate a report within seconds of an incident taking place, wouldn’t that save a lot of time and money! But most important of all, a smart reporting system can minimise risk in the workplace.
Start your journey into digitalized incident reporting by getting in touch with us, today.