How many times have you marveled how lucky it was to avoid a close call while on the job? While narrowly escaping a workplace accident may just seem like a fortunate break, it’s actually an important opportunity. Taking the time to report a near-miss incident right now can prevent serious injuries in the future.
The Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) defines near misses as “incidents where no property was damaged and no personal injury sustained, but where, given a slight shift in time or position, damage and/or injury easily could have occurred.” Near misses also may be referred to as close calls, near accidents, accident precursors, injury-free events and, or near collisions.
Reporting unsafe acts and conditions allow problems to be identified and corrected before an injury occurs. Behaviors or conditions that can cause a near-miss incident:
- Failure to maintain or repair equipment
- Removal of machine guards
- Failure to keep walkways free of slip, trip or fall hazards
- Inadequate training or personal protective equipment
- Not following procedures or poor procedure enforcement
According to the Ohio Bureau of Workers Compensation, for every 15 near-miss incidents, there will be one injury. So, why do many near-accidents go unreported? Employees may resist reporting close calls for a number of reasons, including:
- Fear of being blamed for mistakes
- They don’t want to create more work
- Nobody cares/Reporting won’t change anything
- They don’t want to be labeled as a troublemaker
- Peer pressure not to report
- Long, complicated forms to complete
Employers can encourage workers to participate in near miss reporting by creating non-punitive policies that reward employees who take the time to report. The process should be clear and simple, with all new employees receiving training as part of their orientation.
Remember, reporting a near-miss incident can help prevent serious injuries. The life you save by speaking up just might be your own.
Source: “The value of near-miss reporting” by Joe Thatcher, Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation, 2004.