1. Consider calling a "Good Catch"... something like HSE Observations" instead to incentivise the action
Perhaps you may want to consider a more proactive mechanism in which employees can report unsafe conditions, acts as well as near misses in one place. By focusing on HSE Observations you could very well reduce the number of near misses.
I have used the term “HSE Observations” before and developed forms that would allow employees to highlight the category and describe what they have seen. From experience, the majority of the findings are likely to be unsafe conditions, followed by unsafe acts and then the avoiding of a near miss because of the observation.
Many organizations may also see the unsafe act category as a part of their behavioural safety programs and may want to consider other methods of capturing that particular data.
2. If you really need to incentivise something, incentivise the act of doing an HSE observation before a near miss occurs
To better eliminate issues such as having to report a near-miss by having it tied to employee quotas or incentives, you may want to award the behaviour of having an employee perform on HSE Observation. In this situation, they would not have to be obliged to go and actively seek out near misses and can use the process to identify unsafe conditions in the workplace for example. A more proactive approach than waiting for a dangerous situation to present itself.
We must always remember that incentives best work as a reward for a behaviour, not for a result.
3. Train everyone within the company to understand the categories of reporting
Employees must understand the differences between accidents, near misses, unsafe acts and unsafe conditions early on when joining the organization. This will allow the company to receive much better information on the at-risk activities or areas within its premises.
Explaining the categories must be one of the essentials of any company's general health and safety or Induction training. This element of the training must include everyone from junior staff all the way to the company CEO.
4. Train your HSE department to understand the data and determine criticality
The answer to the common question of do we investigate all near misses does not always have a straightforward answer. Much expertise, understanding of the company culture, understanding of the workplace risks and the criticality of the event comes into making that decision.
Generally, an HSE department would categorize near misses into high potential or low potential. High potential is a grouping of situations which could have resulted in significant injury, environment or property damage, often investigated similarly to an actual accident. A low potential near miss refers to incidents which are not too significant and generally only awareness is needed to prevent future occurrence.
As subject matter experts, HSE departments would be best suited to make that determination. They must develop the correct procedures to determine criticality, use the correct incident analysis techniques and be able to prevent the issue from occurring through a series of recommendations and actions.
5. Develop systems to capture and analyse the data
In larger organizations, it is likely that hundreds of such reports are received on a monthly basis. HSE departments are usually tasked with going through the data to determine what is significant and what is not. In many companies, this places a huge strain on human resources unless the right support can be obtained through the use of good information technology systems.
Some organizations may develop databases where reports could be electronically uploaded directly onto a common network. Such systems also allow better analysis and tracking of any actions as a result of the findings.
6. Link HSE Observations to employee performances
To develop a stronger reporting culture throughout your company, one thought might be to set a targeted number of observations an employee would need to do on a monthly basis. This can also be reviewed by the line manager on an annual or bi-annual basis and be a factor considered when providing feedback to the employee.
This can be a great way of demonstrating the importance of health and safety within an organization and further highlights management's commitment to the cause.
The reporting and investigation of significant near misses are instrumental in preventing injuries. Near misses are really a free learning opportunity, because it signals a potential problem without resulting in injury or loss. Unsafe acts and conditions leading to accidents are even more critical to the safe performance of any operation and systems must be in place to capture these.
If your current safety program doesn’t include a mandatory requirement for reporting near misses or unsafe conditions, perhaps it should. Any reporting mechanism should also take unsafe conditions as well with a clear distinction to ensure the correct data is always captured. This commitment to continuous improvement will demonstrate the importance of safety to all employees.
Life doesn’t always give us warning signs, but when it does, we should be mindful of them. Having an internal HSE observation and investigation structure is critical to overall accident reduction efforts. Being able to anticipate and avoid incidents is far less costly than reacting to one.