Be Sure That Everyone Has the Same Definition of a Near Miss

June 05, 2019
By Jean-Grégoire Manoukian

This week’s Safetip is about making sure that all employees have the same, common definition of what a near miss is.

Near Misses Matter

Reporting accidents is not enough. Near misses must also be reported because they can help uncover previously unknown hazards, thus helping to improve safety.

In fact, even though there is no “standard” set of leading indicators that organizations should track, near miss reporting was the top leading indicator according to an EHS Today survey. It was ahead of employee audits/observations, participation in safety training, and inspections.

Given the importance of near miss reporting, both as a leading indicator and as a way to identify new hazards, it’s necessary to make sure that everybody has the exact same definition of what constitutes a “near miss”.

Near Misses & Incidents & Accidents & Observations

What is a near miss? Let’s start with the basics and ISO 45001. The standard says:

An incident where no injury and ill health occurs, but has the potential to do so, may be referred to as a “near-miss”, “near-hit” or “close call”.

The first thing that should be clear is that a near miss is an incident. But it’s an incident that fortunately did not result in an injury or something bad. For example, a hammer falling from a scaffold and barely missing a worker’s head is a near miss. Nobody got hurt, but it could’ve been much worse, and the near miss is an indication that something serious needs to be corrected.

The following formulas can help to understand the key concepts:

Fatalities + Injuries + Illnesses + Property Damage = Accidents
Near Misses + Accidents = Incidents

One potential area of confusion that should be clarified is the difference between a near miss and an observation. There is great value in capturing and reporting both. For example, noticing that a hammer was left too close to the edge of a scaffold platform is an observation. Maybe it was a very rare oversight by a tired worker at the end of a shift, or maybe it’s a recurring problem. Either way it’s good to be aware of it.

A near miss is an event that took place and fortunately did not result in an injury. An observation is about a “passive” situation, i.e. there is a circumstance that could potentially result in an event.

Train and Communicate

Be sure to train workers on how to identify and report near misses. Explain what a near miss is, why it’s important to capture them, and how to report information about near misses. Show the steps to enter a near miss in an EHS software platform and through a safety mobile app.

Finally, remember that repetition is the best form of education. Communicate frequently the definition of a near miss so everyone is on the same page, and constantly remind workers of the importance of reporting near misses.

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Author

Jean-Grégoire Manoukian

Content Thought Leader