According to OSHA, a near miss is an “unplanned event that did not result in injury, illness or damage, but had the potential to do so”. While near misses cause no immediate harm, they can project what loss or injury could occur. Employers that encourage the reporting of near misses gain valuable insight to preventing future incidents. OSHA suggests the following Best Practices for investigating near misses: First and most critical, is that there must be leadership buy in. Top leaders, need to establish a reporting culture that reinforces the importance of identifying and controlling hazards at every opportunity. To encourage this, employees should not be disciplined for reporting a near miss. Always investigate a near miss, to determine how and why it happened, as well as how it can be prevented from occurring again. Use the results of these near misses as a way to improve your safety system. Recognize that reporting near misses is crucial to preventing serious injury and death.
Most important to any near-miss program is employee participation. It is employees themselves who witness these occurrences. Develop a simple reporting system so that employees submit near misses and ensure good data. Train employees on the use of the system. Ensure that they recognize what a near miss is. Consider an anonymous reporting system to get more participation. Sometimes employees are embarrassed, or afraid of punitive action and therefor, will not report “close calls”. Focus on lessons learned and what not to do, rather than focusing on who did something wrong and assigning blame. Incentives can be used to encourage workers to report hazards rather than offering rewards for low or zero injury rates. This can encourage a reporting culture. Lastly, actively communicate the importance of reporting near-misses, so that it does not fall by the wayside