“Nobody was hurt—that’s the important thing, right?” Not so fast. Near misses are events, often called “incidents,” where injury, property damage or death did not occur, but could have. Failure to track and correct near misses can leave gaping holes in your loss prevention program.
A close call warns you that something in your organization is broken. It may be human error, a lack of training, faulty equipment, even substance abuse can be to blame. Only by examining the root causes of an incident can management determine what steps should be taken to prevent a similar occurrence.
If employees are not injured, they rarely report near misses. There are several reasons. Sometimes employees hesitate due to time constraints. A report will generate more work for the employees, they reason, and perhaps they are already running behind. Or the employee may fear he or she will be disciplined or embarrassed. However, if your organizational culture encourages open dialogue and treats employees’ mistakes as learning experiences when possible, you have a better chance of encouraging employees to come forward.
An organization should remind employees that near-misses mean something is wrong and the only way to fix the problem is through teamwork. Front-line supervisors should work with employees to investigate the issues surrounding the incident and correct them. Employees must believe that management cares about their safety before they will cooperate in the reporting process.
One winning way to overcome employees’ resistance to reporting is to reward employees for “doing the right thing.” This may be as simple as a short email to employees that goes something like this:
“Tim Jones recently helped us address a safety concern when he reported the use of an incorrect sized trailer hitch. The trailer came loose, but fortunately, the safety chain held and no vehicle damage or injury resulted. With Tim’s help, we developed a tail gate training on how to select the correct hitch for the trailer you are using. We’ll be rolling out this short but important training in the next few weeks. Thanks for reporting this, Tim! We encourage employees to report any safety issues including any close calls so that we can make sure you go home safely!”
Safety always comes down to this—does your management team build a safety culture? A safety culture makes it safe and simple for employees to raise concerns about equipment, training issues, or even supervisors who may place profits or a time schedule ahead of safety. A safety culture is built from the top of your organization down, not from the bottom up. Without culture of safety, any safety team effort will fail and fail miserably.
Analyzing near misses is a critical component of your organization’s risk management program. A near miss may be only a short hop to a serious accident or fatality.