by: Amber Peoples, President, Atlas Services February 18, 2022
Near-miss incidents can seem like minor inconveniences, but in some cases they can also be extremely costly to an organization if they are allowed to continue. According to the OSHA definition of a near-miss, A Near-Miss incident is any incident that could have resulted in an injury or illness but did not (OSHA, 2010). By keeping track of these events, you can determine what changes you need to make to prevent them from happening again in the future and avoid potential costs down the road.
The Best Defense Is a Good Offense When it comes to safety, it can be tempting to wait for accidents or injuries to happen before taking action. But prevention is always better than cure – and that’s especially true when talking about near misses. So what are near misses? Put simply, they’re potential hazards or incidents that didn’t result in property damage or personal injury; they may have just made you worry. This is exactly why we need to keep an eye on them: in industries where injuries are common, organizations need to continually challenge employees (and themselves) to ensure they don’t make mistakes which could lead to injuries or worse.
Common near miss types include slips, trips and falls; overexertion; heat exhaustion; motor vehicle incidents; burns and explosions. Each one of these events has its own reason for happening. However, at their core lies a person’s choice to not follow safety protocols. It is vital that businesses understand what each type means so they can properly address it before it becomes a serious issue. A slip, trip or fall accident occurs when someone trips over a slippery surface or loses their balance. This type of incident is among the most common in workplaces. They are also one of most preventable types of accidents because they can be avoided by putting traction mats at entrances and wear non-slip shoes that provide traction.
There are steps you can take to help prevent near miss incidents from occurring. The first step is to keep a record of near miss events. One way to do so is by using a tracking sheet for recording near miss events that have already occurred using a tracking sheet like OSHA’s incident log. When you make use of your own customized tracking sheet, it will be easy to see which areas of your operation are producing (or experiencing) more injuries than others. It may also allow you to see if there is a reason or pattern behind certain accidents or injuries that occur in your workplace – information like what sort of equipment was being used at the time, who was involved in each event, etc. This information can help lead to possible solutions that could help prevent similar types of accidents and injuries in future scenarios.
One major reason companies have been slow to recognize near misses is that they assume OSHA will penalize them or cite them for not reporting it. However, these fears are overblown. The agency notes that OSHA does not monitor near miss reports and never contacts employers directly about their [near miss] program. The bottom line? You don’t need to worry about being punished for having a good system in place—and you do need to worry about failing to report when you really should have. In other words, there are very few negatives associated with near miss reporting; however, there can be significant risk when something does go wrong. A simple rule: if in doubt, report.
If you have had a near miss and are trying to figure out what to do next, you’re not alone. First and foremost, take a step back, take a breath, and don’t panic—the most important thing is that you learn from your near miss. It’s easy to let one event snowball into a series of events with cascading consequences if you don’t nip it in the bud early enough. Once you feel ready to tackle some root causes or safety concerns, there are three questions that can help you address any workplace issue: What? Why? And how? Start at the beginning (What happened?) and work forward (Why did it happen?) until you get to recommendations for preventing future incidents.
For example, someone tripped over equipment they weren’t using properly (what happened?). They tripped because they didn’t have a clear path through their workspace (why?). In order to prevent similar incidents in the future, establish paths through different parts of your workspace and ensure everyone knows where those paths lead; discourage people from walking around when they should be sitting down.
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