Prioritize All Near Misses to Better Manage Them - Safetip #193

Safety Tip and Best Practice
December 04, 2019

Our latest Safetip is about prioritizing all near misses to better manage them and to determine which ones to investigate.

To Investigate or Not to Investigate

As part of your occupational safety program, implement a near miss reporting system where workers can capture and report near misses.

Ideally you should provide your workforce the ability to report near misses (and observations) directly from the field through mobile devices. By making it as easy as possible for employees, you make sure that more near misses and hazards get reported.

But before implementing near miss reporting, be sure that everyone in your organization has the same definition of a near miss.

The ISO 45001 standard says the following: 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”.

A near miss is an incident that fortunately did not result in an injury, property damage, or any type of harm.

Once you have settled on the exact wording of the definition, be sure to communicate it repeatedly, and to include it in your safety training.

Capturing near misses is only the beginning. What follows is more important. In particular, you need to determine if near misses get investigated, or if you only investigate accidents and major incidents.

This is not a simple question because:

  • There might be different types of incident investigations: One that is comprehensive and systematically includes a root cause analysis, and one that does not and takes less time.
  • Not all near misses are the same in terms of their potential for resulting in serious injury and fatality (SIF). Only some near misses have the precursors that could lead to a SIF.

Prioritize Each Near Miss

Not all near misses are equal! Prioritize near misses to better manage them, and to determine which ones to investigate first.

Some may uncover new hazards, or have a SIF potential, while others may highlight very minor issues that can be addressed only after the more important ones.

The priorities of near misses will help you determine the following:

  • The amount of attention given to each near miss.
  • The depth of the analysis performed, i.e. will there be a full incident investigation with a complete root cause analysis.
  • The amount of resources dedicated to finding and implementing solutions.

In terms of how to prioritize near misses, there is no right or wrong answer, but here are some factors to consider:

  • Potential for Harm: If the near miss had resulted in an accident, what would have been the severity of the accident?
  • SIF Potential: This is somewhat connected to the previous item. A near miss has SIF potential if the situation could’ve been worse if not for one single factor (see this post).
  • Frequency: How often is the same type of near miss occurring? Even if its potential for harm is low, you should be concerned if the same type of near miss is happening often.

By prioritizing all near misses, you can better focus your efforts to address the most important ones first.

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Jean-Grégoire Manoukian

Content Thought Leader