No one is hurt in this imaginary scenario. However, the worker has just experienced multiple near-miss situations. Anyone of which could have caused a serious injury.
I would like to start by highlighting the overall importance of near-miss reporting. It is essential to strong safety culture and can provide companies with great insights into potential problem areas within their business.
A near-miss is defined as an incident that could have resulted in injury, illness, or property damage, but for some reason or other, it did not. Often attributed to just a matter of timing or just…pure luck.
When it comes to the applying these definitions to practical situations, however, safety professionals themselves often debate the grey areas. In fact, if you were a fly on the wall in a Health, Safety and Environment (HSE) department’s weekly meeting, at some point you would come to hear discussions such as the following:
- Do we consider a broken tile as a result of a fallen object a near-miss or property damage?
- But no one was there at the time, why should we consider it a near-miss?
- We have received a number of near-miss reports, do we really need to investigate all of them?
- No one has used the step ladder with the loose step yet, why are we classing this as a near-miss?
- Do I consider the incident involving those persons walking under a heavy load as a near-miss?
Many of these questions are often asked as companies do not always get into the correct amount of detail when it comes to defining incident categories. and make no mistake about it, a near miss is an incident that has already happened. Discussions such as the above often becoming more intense when other influences are involved, most notably near miss report quotas, KPI’s or the most significant of all… Near miss reporting incentives!
Providing an incentive or having a general quota for near-miss reporting is a practice some organizations undertake. Although well-intentioned and to an extent can create somewhat of a good reporting culture, the end results very often fall short of expectations. Executives and HSE personnel where such programs are implemented will be very familiar with some of the below common issues:
- Majority of the near-miss reports are not actually near misses as employees have completely got their categories wrong. The incentive, however, drives them to submit anything under the “near-miss” category.
- Same near-miss reports being submitted over and over again.
- Fake near-miss scenarios being submitted.
- Near miss reports only start getting submitted when the department manager starts getting pushy about it. A few get submitted and then everything goes back to normal.
The bad news is that such problems are likely to be a lot bigger then what most people in a company perceive when it comes to incentivised near-miss reports.
To get the best data to help illuminate future accidents, understanding the difference between incidents, near misses, unsafe conditions (Good Catch) and unsafe acts (behaviours) is vital. The following illustration very well puts the different definitions into context: