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Near miss reporting, and why it’s so important

It’s easy to brush off a near miss. That moment when you almost slipped on a floor that had just been cleaned, but steadied yourself just in time. That incident where you tripped over a pile of boxes that had been left blocking an exit, but managed to avoid doing any serious damage.

These close calls may not have caused any human harm, but they had the potential to. Near misses are the almost-accidents that could – on another day, or in another moment in time – become real accidents. So it’s absolutely vital that we report and rectify them when they happen.

What is near miss reporting?

Near miss reporting is the documentation, investigation, and classification of these near misses as a health and safety issue. The goal is to learn from them and to prevent a more serious accident, or even a fatality. Near miss reports give us important insights about working conditions and processes, and highlight areas that may need attention before they’ve had the chance to become a serious problem.

For that reason, near miss reporting is essential for safety in the workplace. Health and safety reporting for GUK and RUK generally shows a low number of health and safety incidences, but that doesn’t mean we can be complacent. Only by continually logging all our near misses can we stay accountable, be aware of any issues, and prevent bigger problems from cropping up.

Why is near miss reporting so important?

The Heinrich Accident Triangle theory, referred to as Bird’s triangle or the accident triangle, applies to industrial accident prevention. In a nutshell, it suggests that there are around 300 near misses for every serious accident. So if we can address those near-misses at the bottom of the triangle, we have a much better chance of preventing those serious incidents at the top.

The difficulty here is that not everyone is quick to report a near miss. Employees might be worried they’ll be punished for filing a report, or blamed for the situation in the first place. Even more often though, managers and employees simply aren’t aware that a close call needs to be reported. That’s why it’s vital to make the process as straightforward as possible.

What kinds of near misses should I report?

Any unplanned event that has the potential to cause, but does not actually result in human harm, is classed as a near miss. At work, that could mean an employee noticing a ‘wet floor’ sign hasn’t been put down on an entrance that’s slippery due to rain. Nobody has slipped and injured themselves, yet, but the potential for harm is there all the same.

It could also be moving boxes that have been left blocking an exit, or asking a delivery driver to move their van out of the way of a fire escape. These may seem trivial at the time, but all these examples could have had very different outcomes – and so a near miss report, and rectification of the issue, is needed. Consistent near miss reporting plays a big part in keeping health and safety incident numbers low at GUK and RUK, and we’ll continue to keep it that way.