Safetip #26: Common Definition of a Near Miss
Clearly Define a “Near Miss” and Communicate the Definition
Once an organization decides to implement near miss reporting, one of the first steps consists of training workers. As part of the training, the definition of a “near miss” must be well explained to all employees to ensure that everybody has a common understanding. A white paper by the National Safety Council provides the following definition of a near miss:
A Near Miss is an unplanned event that did not result in injury, illness, or damage – but had the potential to do so. Only a fortunate break in the chain of events prevented an injury, fatality or damage; in other words, a miss that was nonetheless very near.
An OHS Insider article also offers some perspective on the definition of a near miss. If the overriding objective is to improve workplace safety, it makes sense for the definition to be broad and encompass a wide range of events, according to the article. OHS Insider suggests the following definition:
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, including:
- Unsafe conditions, such as wet floors.
- Unsafe behavior, such as a worker modifying PPE for comfort while impacting its effectiveness.
- Minor incidents/injuries that had potential to be more serious.
- Events where injury could have occurred but didn’t.
- Events where property damage could have resulted but didn’t.
- Events where a safety barrier was challenged, such as a worker bypassing a machine guard.
- Events where potential environmental damage could have resulted but didn’t.
The definitions from the National Safety Council and OHS Insider are not mutually exclusive. They can complement each other, and a definition of a near miss in your organization can include elements from both. The key takeaways are:
- Clearly define what constitutes a near miss in your organization.
- Communicate the definition to workers as part of the training on near miss reporting.
- Frequently remind workers of the definition of a near miss. For example, communicate the results of reported near misses to make the definition clear, facilitate learning, and improve safety.
Finally, remember that defining a near miss is just the beginning. The most important thing is to analyze the reported data on near misses, look for patterns and trends, and act upon it.