How to Radically Improve Near Miss Reporting in Any Organisation

Near misses can provide valuable insight into improving workplace safety.

They should be taken seriously and treated as if they were accidents so you can improve your organisation's health and safety performance. 

Let's dive deep into understanding what a near miss is, why it's essential to report them, why some employees don't report them, and how you can make it easier for your team to report near misses or hazards.

What is a near miss?

According to the HSE, a near miss is "an event not causing harm, but has the potential to cause injury or ill health". 

Under the Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations 2013 (RIDDOR), a near miss is a "dangerous occurrence" and refers to accidents that almost happen.

Although near misses are not as severe as incidents that cause injuries or damage, they still need to be taken seriously and reported according to legislation. 

In addition to internal reporting, organisations in the UK are legally obliged to report near misses under RIDDOR. According to RIDDOR, employers must report to the local authorities any near misses involving the following items: 

  • Lifting equipment
  • Pressure systems
  • Overhead electric lines
  • Electrical incidents causing explosion or fire
  • Explosions
  • Biological agents
  • Radiation generators and radiography,
  • Breathing apparatus
  • Diving operations
  • Collapse of scaffolding
  • Train collisions
  • Wells
  • Pipelines or pipeline works.

How many near misses go unreported?

Despite the legal obligation to report near misses, it is not uncommon to hear that many employees don't report near misses. While it is difficult to determine how many near misses go unreported, one survey by Accident Advice Helpline UK can shed some insights. 

Accident Advice Helpline had asked respondents if they would report any workplace hazards they saw. Although the surveyed question was about hazards and not directly about near misses, we can draw some parallels because hazards and near misses are similar.

After all, neither has caused harm or damage but has the potential to do so. 

The survey by Accident Advice Helpline revealed that the respondents had seen the following hazards at work:

Hazard Percentage who saw it Potential incident
Spillages 58.70% Slips, trips, and falls
Trailing wires 56.60%
Uneven flooring 43.50%
Lack of safety around machinery 56.60% Contact with moving machinery

Struck by a moving object

Trapped by something collapsing/overturning
Wrong equipment being used for tasks 37.80%
Not wearing the correct health & safety equipment 36.30%
Working at height without following health and safety requirements 29% Falls from height

Worryingly, the survey went on to show that 1 in 6 respondents did not report the hazards they saw, which increases the chances of the associated potential incidents.

It’s vital to take near miss reporting seriously

From the survey, we can see that a significant percentage of those surveys have identified hazards that can lead to serious incidents, which is worrying when some go unreported.

Not reporting these hazards or near misses can lead to serious injuries or even fatalities. Consider these facts from HSE’s Summary Statistics for Great Britain 2021:

  • Slips, trips, and falls are the most common cause of non-fatal injuries to employees (33%).
  • 10% of non-fatal injuries are caused by being struck by a moving object.
  • Falls from height account for 8% of non-fatal injuries.

Another 2020/2021 HSE report showed that fatal injuries were caused by:

  • Falls from height (35%)
  • Struck by moving vehicle (25%)
  • Struck by moving object (17%)
  • Trapped by something collapsing/overturning (14%)
  • Contact with moving machinery (14%)

Why some near misses are not reported?

According to the same survey by Accident Advice Helpline UK, the reasons they did not report the hazards or potential near misses and incidents are:

  • 29% said they didn’t have the time
  • 24% felt the hazard didn’t affect them
  • 23% said it wasn’t their responsibility
  • 23% didn’t know who to report a hazard to
  • 13.2% worried about getting in trouble
  • 7.5% were told not to report an issue

Based on these responses, we can summarise that the three main reasons employees don’t report hazards or near misses are:

  1. Employees may consider near misses to be a trivial matter.
  2. Employees don't feel safe reporting a near miss.
  3. The process of reporting near misses is too difficult.

To improve near miss reporting in your organisation, you'll need to make it essential, safe, and easy for anyone to report near misses.

Making it a priority to report near misses

The first step is to train your employees to understand that near misses are not a trivial matter. 

Here are some tips on what to include in your near miss reporting training to make it more effective.

  1. Explain the Heinrich triangle, which states that for every 300 acts of risky behaviour, 29 result in a minor incident or near miss and one results in a serious accident.
  2. Use real-life case studies of hazard reporting in your company and how it helped avoid potential incidents.
  3. Document the near miss reporting process and make it easily accessible to employees, so they know how to make a report and to whom.
Heinrich Triangle

Making it safe to report near misses

Since more than 20% surveyed by Accident Advice Helpline UK expressed fear of reporting hazards, ensure your employees know it is safe to report hazards, near misses, and incidents. You can do this by:

  1. Sharing the company’s commitment to improving workplace safety for everyone.
  2. Training managers and supervisors on responding to reports without pointing blame.
  3. Nurturing an employee-led safety culture that encourages employees to take ownership of workplace safety. 

Making it easy to report near misses

The traditional way of reporting near misses is cumbersome. 

First, an employee must fill in a physical form and then file a report. Some may need to report it to their supervisor personally. Then, the report is filed and processed. Analysing and following up on the report is another long chain of paperwork and filing.

Let's face it. When there's this much friction in this process, it's not surprising that many employees feel it's a burden to report a near miss. 

Since the near miss didn't harm anyone or cause any damage, they think reporting a near miss is not worth the time, effort and impact on productivity. 

However, the long-term implications of not reporting near misses can be more detrimental. 

By eliminating the friction in reporting and reducing the negative impact on productivity that traditional reporting can have, you can remove the obstacles and bureaucracy that prevent employees from reporting near misses.

What if reporting near misses is as easy as updating social media?

Imagine if reporting a near miss was as easy as pulling out a mobile phone and writing a status update or uploading a photo on social media? 

With a  near miss reporting system like Incidents, this is possible.

Here’s a glimpse into how easy it is for your organisation to capture near miss data with our near miss reporting system:

  1. Select “Near Miss” from the dropdown menu and briefly describe the near miss. 
  1. GPS will automatically record the location.
  1. Upload any relevant photos through the mobile phone’s camera and add any extra context by adding comments.

How to use near miss reporting software to prevent future events

With a near miss reporting app, employees can easily report near misses or hazards. 

Here’s how Incidents makes it easy to follow up on near miss reports to prevent future events.

  1. Managers and supervisors can view on the platform all the reported near misses and hazards in real-time
  2. Anyone can alert other employees or supervisors by tagging them on the near miss records to implement corrective actions to prevent incidents swiftly.
  3. Threaded discussions keep relevant conversations in one place and ensure nothing slips through the cracks. 

It’s time to take near miss reporting seriously

Removing the friction to report near misses and hazards is integral to building a first-class workplace safety culture. 

If your organisation is still operating on physical forms and legacy systems to report near misses, it's time to switch to an incident reporting software. .

By making it a priority for employees to quickly, easily, and safely report near misses and hazards, you're also sending out the message that you care for their safety.

Showing this dedication to improving workplace safety can make employees feel more valued while reducing incidents to even minimise downtime and boost productivity.

Talk to our sales to learn more on how you can get started with Vatix’s near miss reporting software.

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