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April 02, 2015
7 tips to ensure that a close call doesn't become something worse

Are employees at your site encouraged to report near misses? Do you share lessons learned from these close calls to prevent actual incidents? Read on to find out why, and how, you should be doing this.

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According to the National Safety Council (NSC), a near miss is an unplanned event that did not result in an injury, illness, or damage. But it could have. “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.”

Much like a slight tremor that precedes an earthquake, near misses often occur in advance of more serious incidents. But when there’s no harm or damage, they are easy to overlook. At prevention-oriented workplaces, employees are encouraged to share their near miss experiences without fear of reprisal.

Some experts estimate that for every worker fatality, as many as 10,000 unsafe acts are committed. When reporting occurs, the data gets discussed and changes can be made, reducing the chance for an actual injury or loss.

Tips to improve your near miss reporting program

Leaders set the tone for a no-blame reporting culture where near misses are fully investigated, just as actual incidents would be. Make sure you’re doing the following to get the most out of close calls:

  • Get employees involved in investigations.
  • Make sure your inquiry answers the big six questions: who, what, when, where, why, and how.
  • Distinguish between facts and opinions, although both should be presented.
  • Avoid automatically blaming the employee who was involved. Consider an anonymous reporting system.
  • Use findings from your investigation in toolbox talks, as part of safety training, and to improve policies and practices.
  • Consider motivating employees to report near misses, for example by rewarding them with recognition or a non-monetary treat.
  • Develop a reporting system that is easy for employees to understand and use.
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