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Everything you need to know about a near miss: definitions of near miss, incident, accident, their differences, the importance of near miss reporting, and digital tools to reduce SIF potential and improve safety
Published March 25th, 2021
A near miss is an incident that did not result in injury or property damage but would have if it had not been addressed in a timely manner. Though the worst possible outcomes of the near miss were not realized, the affected employee should still report it as an unsafe event.
Though near miss is included in the OSHA definition of incident (as an incident subtype), there are key differences between them. Unlike a near miss, the worst possible outcomes of an incident, which may or may not be injury or property damage, were realized due to it not being addressed in a timely manner.
An accident is an unsafe event that results in injury or property damage. Though the OSHA definition of incident is essentially similar to accident, other safety organizations consider incident and accident to be two separate entities, as there are many possible differences between them.
Organizations in high-risk industries should pay close attention to near misses because they may have serious injury and fatality (SIF) potential. A near miss is classified as having SIF potential if the realistic worst outcome is a life-threatening or life-altering injury.
The first step in reducing SIF potential is to encourage reporting among employees. By doing so, organizations will be able to gather enough data on SIF precursors or factors that increase SIF potential. The second step is to take advantage of digital tools that can help in the collection and analysis of data, such as a mobile inspection app. Finally, the third step is to conduct a root cause analysis whenever an incident (including a near miss) occurs.
Though a near miss is sometimes deemed too trivial to be worth a report, enforcing near miss reporting has many advantages. Timely reporting helps in mitigating risks, preventing accidents, raising awareness about the hazards employees face, and ensuring a safer working environment for them.
Save employees time spent on making near miss reports from scratch by providing near miss report forms that are easy to understand and fill out. A near miss report form should contain the following elements:
iAuditor near miss reporting form
When creating a template for near miss report forms, consider adding questions on the SIF potential of the near miss and what prevented the near miss from resulting in injury or property damage. For example, an employee whose foot slips while climbing a ladder manages to regain his balance and not fall down the ladder. In this situation, the near miss has high SIF potential since 33% of deaths from falls in construction are caused by falls from ladders.
Paper near miss report forms take a while to complete and submitted near miss report forms are easily misplaced. With most risks being time-sensitive, taking the proper corrective action immediately can prevent further near misses and possible accidents from occurring.
Use this digital template to provide the necessary details and photo evidence of the near miss. Include the names of people who witnessed the near miss as well as your own digital signature to validate the report before sending it to your organization’s health and safety team.
Use this digital template to quickly document a near miss. Indicate if the near miss caused employees working in the area to stop work or if business-as-usual operations continued despite the near miss. Include the location, date, time, and additional photo/s to help explain the near miss. Complete the report by signing off.
If the outcome of an unsafe event is fully realized and not prevented by luck or last minute decisions, then the unsafe event is an incident, instead of a near miss, even if it also did not result in injury or property damage. If it is clear what caused the unsafe event to occur and its outcome includes injury or property damage, then the unsafe event is an incident, not an accident. Accidents always result in injury or property damage but are more complex than incidents, in that they do not have an apparent clear cause.
A robust incident reporting culture helps in identifying common causes of incidents or SIF precursors and in developing effective plans for targeting them so that further incidents are avoided. According to the Campbell Institute, a key aspect of SIF precursors is that, even in the presence of high-risk situations, management controls are absent, ineffective, or not complied with and if allowed to continue will result in serious injury or fatality.
An essential step in the creation of effective incident reports is establishing a system for it. This not only helps managers obtain the data they need to make the workplace safer, but also makes incident reporting more convenient for employees. Here is an outline for a basic incident reporting system which can be communicated to employees:
Unlike paper-based incident reporting which can be a hassle for most employees, a digital template grants them constant access to the resources they need to file a report. With intuitive questions right at their fingertips, they’ll be able to submit more relevant incident reports to the organization’s safety team, leading to the appropriate corrective action being taken sooner.
Use this digital template to capture a potential hazard that has not yet resulted in injury or property damage. Identify if the near miss occurred due to an unsafe act, an unsafe condition, unsafe equipment, or unsafe use of equipment. Capture and annotate photos of the surrounding environment to visually explain how the near miss came about. Include recommendations for corrective actions and who should be responsible for accomplishing them.
Use this digital template to document the type of incident that occurred, such as near misses, sentinel events, and no harm events. Help the organization monitor the common causes of incidents or SIF precursors to assess what improvements are needed for a safer workplace.
Use this digital template to conduct a root cause analysis following an incident or a near miss. Gather both necessary facts and general background information surrounding the incident. Record the relevant environmental, equipment, system, and people factors that may have contributed to the incident. Identify the specific corrective actions that must be taken to address the contributing factors.
A root cause analysis (RCA) is a methodical approach for analyzing problems and eliminating their root causes to solve counterproductive issues or events. It helps ensure the prevention of recurring problems and validates that taking the right action can make processes more efficient and employees more productive.
Incorporating root cause analysis into near miss report forms may help in the capturing of data that could potentially solve the larger problem. By asking employees to perform a simple root cause analysis immediately after a near miss occurs, organizations become better equipped to find out what exactly led to the incident and how to prevent it from happening again in the future.
A widely used problem-solving technique, the 5 Whys can be applied to universal problems across industries due to its practical nature. As a general rule of thumb, the root cause is identified by asking, “Why did this problem occur?” 5 times.
Here’s an example showing how the 5 Whys can be applied to a near miss:
Problem – An employee almost fell down a ladder.
Root Cause – There is no process for delegating maintenance responsibilities to employees.
A root cause analysis template helps health and safety teams construct useful problem statements, collect important data, identify root causes efficiently, and implement long-lasting solutions. Unlike other root cause analysis formats, a digital template is built to be mobile-ready, meaning that managers can start a root cause analysis immediately after the near miss occurs.
Use this digital template to ensure that health and safety teams address the root causes of problems to prevent them from recurring. Perform follow-throughs on the effectiveness of solutions to improve accountability. Clearly define the problem and answer why the problem occurred. Create and assign corrective actions to solve its root cause.
Use this digital template to conduct a root cause analysis based on the 8 Disciplines of Problem Solving, previously known as Team-Oriented Problem Solving. Check if the problem statement contains the 5W2H (Who, What, When, Where, Why, How, How much/often). Differentiate between interim containment actions and permanent corrective actions. Include lessons learned that can be applied to similar problems within the organization.
Whenever a near miss occurs or is reported, it is critical to not place the blame solely on the employee, as the root cause of a near miss is more likely to be a flaw in the organization’s systems or processes. To correctly address a near miss and prevent an injury or fatality from occurring, health and safety teams must assess the organization’s overall risk management and hazard identification.
Use this digital template to effectively manage the health and safety hazards in the workplace. Identify potential and existing hazards, assess the risk levels, and provide the necessary control measures. Monitor the performance of control measures and advise if more suitable measures are required.
Use this digital template based on OSHA regulatory standards to evaluate the safety and health program of an organization. This template is composed of seven sections covering management leadership, worker participation, hazard identification, hazard prevention, education and training, program evaluation, and communication/coordination.
iAuditor by SafetyCulture is a mobile EHS app that organizations across industries can use to protect the health and safety of their employees. As the Best SaaS Product for Health & Safety, iAuditor helps build a healthy reporting culture and streamline an EHS management process with the following features:
Available on Android, iOS, and the web, iAuditor is a customizable mobile inspection app mainly used to improve and maintain safety and quality in numerous industries. iAuditor offers a number of ready-to-use near miss reporting templates that can be used in different industries to streamline EHS management and near miss reporting processes.
SafetyCulture staff writer
Zarina is a Content Specialist for SafetyCulture. She is a Creative Writing graduate who enjoys discovering new ways for businesses to improve their safety, quality, and operations. She is working towards helping companies become more efficient and better equipped to thrive through change.
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