WorkSafe NZ defines a near miss as an incident which did not result in injury, illness or damage, but could have potentially done so.
Every day we experience near misses in our home and work life. Your kids knock you while you are carrying a hot cup of coffee but you avoid spilling it on one of them. You trip over pipes lying across the path and narrowly avoid falling onto some shelving units which could have tumbled onto one of your colleagues. In slightly different circumstances these incidences could have led to a serious injury.
It is important to consider near misses as a zero cost learning tool: any workplace that identifies and investigates near miss incidents of significant severity is generally safer than the one that does not.
It is important to investigate the cause of a near miss in a timely and accurate manner. Employers need to ensure that the reporting and investigation of all near misses is promoted and part of the workplace culture. All near misses should be taken seriously and reported consistently. Reporting of near misses gives employers information about the overall effectiveness of hazard identification and management.
There are often many reasons why an employee is unwilling to report a near miss. These include:
- Fear of being blamed – the employee may have not followed procedures or was actually doing something they should not have been doing when the near miss happened.
- Indifference or apathy – employees may think the near miss was too trivial to require reporting.
- Lack of managerial support – Managers need to lead by example and report near misses themselves; if they don’t treat it as a priority their employees won’t either.
Under the new Health & Safety legislation the definition of Notifiable Events (death & notifiable injury or illness) has expanded to include ‘Notifiable Incidents’ which are incidents that have the potential to cause serious harm to a person’s health or safety. This means all incidents, regardless of whether the incident caused injury needs to be reported. This includes incidents to your employees and subcontractors working on site. Records need to be kept for 5 years.
How do you encourage recording near misses?
- Make it simple. Use a severity scale to rate the incident.
- Don’t set quotas. Employees who have met their quota may ignore subsequent – and potentially more dangerous – near misses
- Offer incentives to report hazards.
- Give employees the option to report anonymously if they feel they may have been to blame.
- Encourage team discussions around near misses. What can be done to mitigate the hazard etc?
- Management must lead by example and establish a reporting culture.
Ensure your employees understand that an investigation is not a blame exercise but a learning experience. They need to understand that the results will be used to improve safety systems, hazard control and risk reduction to minimise the likelihood of a serious accident happening in the future.
Simple on-line forms can be created within Siteapp for near miss reporting. Siteapp has easy to use forms to identify and assess hazards and put control measures in place for each work step. Call now to see how Siteapp can minimise near miss incidents within your workplace.