When looking for ways to improve the safety of your facility, one of the best options is to identify improvement opportunities by looking at near misses. Near misses are any incident where someone experiences a problem that almost causes an accident or injury.
While nobody would deny that these incidents can be very useful for tracking down root causes of safety issues before something more serious happens, it is really easier said than done. Take some time to follow this step by step guide to near miss reporting, and you’ll have all the great information you need to take effective steps toward improving the safety of your facility.
This guide will take you through each of the actual reporting steps, as well as how to use the information to develop an effective solution to the root cause of the near miss. This is a great way to improve safety in an ongoing way for your facility.
Step 1 – Is It a Near Miss
Whenever there is a near miss incident, the people involved as well as supervisors and safety managers should quickly decide whether or not the incident is something that should be reported on. OSHA has a good set of guidelines that can help you to identify which instances require reporting.
In their guidelines, they go over some important definitions as well as details about when your company should make the effort to investigate the situation. OSHA sums this up quite simply by saying, “All incidents, whether a near miss or an actual injury-related event, should be investigated.”
They go on to define three important terms that you must be aware of when making any safety improvement efforts. They are:
Accident – The National Safety Council defines an accident as an undesired event that results in personal injury or property damage.
Incident – An incident is an unplanned, undesired event that adversely affects completion of a task.
Near Miss – Near misses describe 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.
It is important to start with these definitions because it will help to determine how different events are reported. Accidents, for example, often have very specific requirements regarding how and to which agencies they are reported. Near misses can most often be investigated and reported on internally, without involving regulatory agencies or other groups(though not always).
If it is decided that a particular event was a near miss, move on to the next step in the near miss reporting process.
Step 2 – Initial Reporting
As soon as possible, near misses need to be reported to the proper individual or group within the facility. In most cases, the reporting will be completed by the individual or individuals who experienced the event as well as those who witnessed it.
Having a near miss reporting form can be a great way to prompt the people who are reporting the issue to ensure they provide all the necessary information. The sooner they are able to complete the report, the more accurate it is likely to be. For this reason, make sure that the documents used when reporting these events are easily available to everyone throughout the facility.
Every near miss reporting form will need to be customized based on the specifics of the facility, however, you can see a good example of a form from workforcesafety.com. This form makes it quick and easy for employees to report these types of events.
One last thing to keep in mind when setting up any policies related to the initial near miss reporting is that each individual involved should fill out their own form. This will ensure you get as much information, from as many different sources, as possible. Whether the individual was directly involved or just a witness, make sure they are completing these forms properly.
Step 3 – Safety Manager Investigation
As soon as a near miss has been reported, either the safety manager for the facility or the manager of the area where the event took place will begin their investigation. This investigation is what will determine what, if any, changes need to take place to help reduce or eliminate the risk of something similar happening again.
The following are specific steps that must be taken during the investigation in order to help ensure everything is done properly:
Identify Root Causes – The focus throughout the investigation should be on identifying the root cause of the near miss. By discovering the root cause, you can complete the near miss reporting process with a recommendation on how to prevent it in the future.
Assessing Risks – During this process, it is important to determine whether there is a risk of something similar happening in the future, especially if it is possible that there will be an actual injury next time rather than a near miss.
Asking Questions – One of the main activities during the investigation will be to ask questions of everyone involved, including all witnesses to the near miss. The classic “Who, What, When, Where, Why, How” questions are a great place to start during this investigation.
Physical Inspections – If the near miss took place near a machine or because of something physical in an area, take the time to inspect it. Make sure there is nothing malfunctioning that may have caused the problem, or possibly missing safety equipment.
Document Details of Event – Taking the time to clearly document what happened is very important. The more the safety manager can include in the report, the better it will be when looking to discover how to reduce the risks in the future. Ideally, this should be written in an objective way that will just convey the facts.
Step 4 – Develop an Action Plan
Once the report has been completed, you will want to take some time to develop a plan of action. In some cases, this can be done by the safety manager or supervisor in an area on their own. In other cases, it may be necessary to pull together a team of people to work on it together.
In most instances, it will be discovered that there are things that can be changed in order to reduce or eliminate the risk of this type of thing from happening again. When this is the case, it is important to make a detailed plan of action that can be implemented as soon as possible.
It is essential to ensure the plan is well thought out so that it doesn’t end up causing further problems, and has as little impact on the day to day work that is done in the facility as possible.
For example, if a near miss was caused by a hi-low driving in the facility and almost running over someone walking through the area, the solution should not be overly drastic like eliminating hi-lows. Instead, coming up with a more reasoned approach to preventing this problem in the future will be necessary.
In the example given above, a good solution may be to create driving lanes and walking lanes using floor marking tape. Developing a good plan of action will allow you to properly address the actual issue that caused the near miss, which will help to minimize the risk of it ever happening again.
Step 5 – Providing Training (Where Necessary)
Once you have the plan on how to reduce the risk of a specific near miss prepared, you will want to start providing training to those whom it will impact. In some cases, the training should be given to the entire facility. In others, it will only need to be given to specific groups that work in or around the area impacted. If it was discovered that the near miss was caused by a mistake of an individual, they may be the only ones that need the training.
Taking the time to figure out who will benefit from this training will help ensure you get the right results, without wasting anyone’s time in the process.
The important thing to remember here is that you want to prepare everyone for the changes, even if they are fairly small. This will help to give the new safety processes the best chance to give your facility the results that you want.
At this point you may have noticed that the training step is actually coming before the implementation step. This is a key point. If you make changes in the facility, and then try to work in the training after the fact, it can actually make the situation more dangerous.
This is why it is important to get everyone up to speed with the changes ahead of time, which will ensure that when any changes are made, everything will go as smoothly as possible.
In addition to this type of training, it is a good idea to update other training programs such as the new employee orientation, so that it will include the changes that are being made. This will help to ensure the safety advancements that are made will last long into the future.
Step 6 – Reviewing the Results
The last step is to take a close look at the results from the changes that are made. This doesn’t just mean that you will want to see if the specific type of near miss event happens again, though that can be important. Instead, you want to look at the overall results of any changes that you made.
One great way to do this is to create a table that identifies the potential areas of impact from the changes, and what the results were over time. For example:
Parts Per Hour
Accidents & Near Misses
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This is, of course, a very simple table, but that is often all that will be required. In this example it shows the total number of parts per hour in each of the weeks after the changes are made. The numbers are a comparison to the average numbers from before the change.
The accidents and near misses in this table represent all near misses. If they are related to the same issue, and you’re still seeing them, you likely have to go back to try to come up with new ideas on how to stop them. If they are unrelated, than the near miss reporting steps can be started again for this new event.
The mistakes per hour is similar to that of the first row. This type of information is very important because while safety is absolutely critical, it is also necessary to keep the facilities productivity up as high as possible. Many facilities will find that implementing these safety improvements will actually improve productivity over time.
Finally, the number of complaints is something that should always be tracked. It can typically be expected that some employees will complain about nearly every change that is implemented. If the complaints continue long after the change is made, however, it may be a problem that needs to be addressed.
Take some time to review any complaints that come in and see if there is anything that can be done to minimize any negative impact from the changes.
Step 6B – Filing Any OSHA Reports
As part of reviewing the results, you may find that you are required to file a report regarding the event with OSHA or other regulatory agencies. This type of requirement is fairly rare for near misses, and really only applies in certain industries.
In the event that you aren’t sure whether or not a specific near miss needs to be reported to OSHA, you can always contact them for guidance. They have a web page that is specifically setup to provide employers with assistance.
Many questions are answered directly there, but for very specific issues, you can contact them via email, phone or even snail mail. They really do a great job of working with employers to help them to stay in compliance with all local, state and federal laws and regulations. While some facilities are hesitant to contact OSHA, this is actually a great way to avoid problems.
Tracking Near Miss Reporting
That sums up the steps that should take place whenever a near miss occurs. Throughout this process there will be a lot of data that is collected and analyzed to help improve the overall safety of the facility.
One thing that is important for the facility is to keep this type of information gathered together in one place so that it is easily accessible. Ideally this should be digitally on a computer, but even paper files can be enough.
By keeping this type of information you can refer back to it in the event that a similar near miss occurs again in the future. If it is the exact same scenario, you can begin by looking to see if the changes that were made have fallen out of use, or if the training is not being given in an effective way.
If that is the case, you will already have everything you need in order to fix the problem right away.
In the event that the issue is not exactly the same, but is still similar, you can still use a lot of the planning and other information from one of the near miss reports to come up with effective strategies for another.
Of course, having this information available will also be very useful in the event that it is needed for a potential lawsuit, OSHA investigation or other related situation. This can help you to be able to show that your facility has done everything it possibly could in order to keep everyone safe while working.
One of the best things about following these simple steps for near miss reporting is that it doesn’t take a lot of time, effort or even money in order to complete. You can begin following this process in your facility the very next time that your facility has any type of near miss event.
Of course, it will take a few tries before things start running smoothly, but the process is not too hard and in most cases, facilities can start seeing the benefits almost immediately.
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