While most people think of the workplace as a fairly safe environment today, there are still a lot of risks in place. Sure, we have come a long way from the dangerous (and all too often deadly) work environments of generations past, but there are still thousands of accidents and injuries each year. In addition, far too many people are still being killed on the job due to these accidents and injuries.
While the major problems tend to get the most attention when looking into safety improvement, there is another area that can give insight into where future accidents and injuries may take place. Near Misses. Near misses are an event where an accident or injury almost takes place, but for one reason or another does not.
These events are typically denied as any situation where an accident or injury could have occurred if only small changes to the scenario had occurred. For example, if something fell from a shelf in a warehouse and missed the personal walking in the area by a few feet, that would clearly be a near miss. Of course, there are endless other types of near misses that can take place in a facility.
Learning how to properly measure your near misses is important for any facility owner, safety manager or others who are responsible for keeping the workplace safe. The following are some proven tips and strategies for measuring near misses in your facility.
When working on improving the measurement of near misses in your facility, one of the best things you can do is establish categories of near misses. This will help you to keep them better organized and it will also make it easier to identify where improvements are needed in your facility.
Every facility will need to make their own list of categories based on the specifics of their environment. The following are some examples of near miss categories to give you an idea of what you might want to use:
Falling Objects – If your facility has people working up high or storing items at heights, falling objects may be a real hazard. Tracking any near misses related to falling items is an important step.
Slip & Fall – Almost all facilities will have some risk of slips & falls at some times. If someone slips on a wet area but catches their balance without getting hurt, this is a near miss. Keeping track of these is very important.
Vehicle Related – Vehicles such as high lows, forklifts and others can be very dangerous. Tracking near misses related to these vehicles is essential to workplace safety.
Spills – A spill can be dangerous in any situation, but some are worse than others. For example, if a barrel is spilled and it is empty, that could be a near miss because if it had been filled with a chemical it could have been deadly.
Fire & Electrical – Fire and electrical related incidents can be particularly dangerous. Tracking events that may have caused a significantly increased risk of fire, for example, will help you to stop this potential problem in the future.
Whether your facility has just a few categories or dozens of them, breaking each type of near miss down into its proper category will be very helpful. It will allow you to spot trends and risk areas more quickly so you can take steps to address the root cause of the problem.
Establish Near Miss Locations
Another essential item to track when measuring near misses is the physical location of the incident. Many facilities are going to have areas where there is going to be more risk than others. For example, the areas near entrances and exits are going to be more at risk for slip and fall near misses because water or snow may be dragged in.
In addition, locations near machines that generate lots of heat may be at higher risk for fires or other related incidents. Whenever someone reports a near miss, make sure you identify exactly where in the facility it takes place. This will help you to spot trends and point you in the direction of how you can properly prevent risks or at least reduce their severity.
When done properly, spotting patterns in the location of your near misses can help to dramatically improve the overall safety of your facility. Even better, you can use the locations along with the category and other pieces of information to really get a full picture of what is causing the near misses in your facility. This will help you to not just attempt to find a solution, but to really pinpoint what is going on and address it in a way that will allow you to confidently predict an end to specific types of near misses.
Make Reporting Fast & Easy
Another important thing to do when working on improving how your facility measures near misses is to make the reporting of these events as fast and easy as possible. You can’t properly measure near misses if people aren’t reporting them to be tracked.
Unfortunately, many employees look at near misses as unimportant, so they don’t want to take the time to fill out the paperwork or other tasks associated with it. Many facilities have found that using a simple computer program to help document near misses is a great way to streamline the process. This will also make it easier for most employees to report the incident right away so they can get back to their daily tasks.
Never Punish Reporting
This is somewhat related to making it fast and easy, but definitely needs its own heading. Employees are often worried that they will be punished if they experience an accident or injury at work. This extends to near misses as well.
If you want to be able to properly measure your near misses, you need to make sure that everyone is 100% comfortable reporting them. It should be very clear to all employees that there is no risk that they will be punished or otherwise experience anything negative related to their report. In addition, making sure they can have the time needed to fill out the proper reports will help get people to track all near misses in your facility.
Use Visual Reminders
Another great way to improve the reporting of near misses in your facility is to use visual reminders throughout the facility. You can put up signs that tell people that they should report any incident where someone could have potentially been hurt, with simple instructions on how to do it. You can also use custom labels to convey this message.
These labels can be printed right from any industrial label printer (similar to this) and placed in areas where people are likely to see them. If you have ‘problem areas’ in your facility that you believe to be more dangerous than others, it is a good idea to put up visual reminders so you can get the data that you need.
Act Publically on Near Miss Reports
When a report of a near miss comes in that has some type of actionable information, make sure you act on it publically. For example, if you get a report that high-lows in the facility are turning down a particular aisle and coming very close to bumping the shelving, that is a near miss. When the report comes in, you should immediately begin looking into the cause of the problem.
Asking the drivers and others who work in the area why this is occurring. If the drivers report that it is difficult to see where the aisle markings are because of the lighting, take action to fix it. You can either add additional lighting to the area, or put down reflective floor marking tape so drivers can easily see where they are supposed to turn.
When done, let everyone know that this potentially dangerous situation was resolved thanks to the report from a specific employee. This will let everyone know that their reports are looked at and action is taken to keep them safer. When people are confident that reporting near misses is not just a waste of time, they are much more likely to take the time to do the necessary paperwork to report these incidents in the future.
Never Stop Improving
The bottom line here is there is no 100% perfect way to measure your near misses. There is always room for improvement and since the circumstances in a facility are constantly changing, there will need to be adjustments over time.
The best thing you can do when attempting to measure your near misses properly is to understand that there is always room for improvement, and never stop looking for those opportunities. This will allow you to make ongoing adjustments to your measurement techniques to hopefully keep getting better and better results.
Whether you have an official process improvement plan in place or you just always keep an eye out for areas of opportunity, you’ll find that you can dramatically improve your near miss measurement results by making continuous changes and improvements.