By: Lindsey Yowell

What exactly is a “near miss”?  A near miss is an unplanned event that did not result in injury, illness, or damage – but had the potential to do so.  This term can be also be referred to as a “close call”, “near collision”, or “near hit”.  Though it may be natural instinct for one to just consider it a lucky day and walk away, many industries are trying to steer away from that and encourage reporting.
For every 300 near miss events there is said to be one serious injury.  According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2010 there were 3.1 million non-fatal injuries in addition to 4,547 fatalities.  If you take each injury and multiply it by 300 the result is 931,364,100 near misses for 2010 alone!

There are many benefits of reporting and communicating these events.  The major battle is the reluctance of employees to do so.  One way to encourage near miss reporting is to engage workers at all levels.  Providing a means of noting hazards can increase an employee’s ownership in safety.  For example, a worker notices that the bollards surrounding a fire hydrant outside are continuously being hit by the delivery trucks.  The worker makes note of this so the problem can be addressed.  A few days later the employee arrives at work and sees that the posts have been replaced, painted bright yellow, and had reflective tape added around the top portion of each post.  This reinforces the workers’ self-esteem and engages them in recognizing and solving hazards.  This positive feedback encourages the employee to have a questioning attitude and will lead to the assurance that reporting a near miss will be taken at the same importance. 

You were lucky and walked away from a “near miss” so what should you take with you?

Conduct a root cause analysis to identify where the defect in the procedure or system occurred. 

Use this as a learning tool.  Communicate to supervisors/employees the event that took place so that everyone is aware of the hazard and possible outcome that can result from such actions.  

Encourage employee participation in brainstorming of new procedures/processes that may result in the prevention of a recurrence. 

Nearly every company has a designated safety department, but by encouraging the recognition and reporting of near miss events, every employee becomes part of the safety team.