Near Misses: What Can We Learn?

We’ve all heard or used the phrase close call or “near miss” in one way or another. Have you ever really stopped and asked “What is a near miss”?  Wikipedia defines it as, “an unplanned event that did not result in injury, illness, or damage but had the potential to do so.” What does this mean to you? A Near-Miss is an opportunity to improve safety, health, environmental and security of an
operation based on a condition or an incident with potential for more serious consequence
Now, ask yourself, How many times have you shrugged off a near miss? Did you ever gave it a second thought?   The difference between a near miss and an accident often is a fraction of a second or an inch.  And when it happens again, the outcome might not be the same.
H.W. Heinrich created a study that estimates for every 300 incidents of the same type, 300 produce no injuries, 29 produce minor injuries and one produces a major injury. ( these statistics vary with the job being done.) The problem is we never know which time the major injury will occur.
 In 1969, a study of  accidents was undertaken by Frank E. Bird, Jr. who used the “Heinrich Safety Pyramid” as the basis of his study, found results that were even more astounding. After analyzing 1,753,498 accidents reported by 297 cooperating companies, Bird determined that the number of near misses is even greater than we once thought. For every 600 incidents (near misses), there are 30 accidents, 10 serious accidents, and 1 fatality.
What are the causes for Near Misses?
· Unsafe acts – such as improper lifting; walking under an overhead load; cutting, grinding, or chipping without safety glasses; not using proper Personal Protective Equipment, etc.
· Unsafe conditions – such as poorly maintained equipment, oil or grease on floors, welding leads that have been laid in walkways, trash and boxes that have been left in hallways, etc.
· Hurrying and taking risks to complete a task or to wrap up a job at quitting time.
Report Near Misses Before They Become Accidents:
· Once a near miss occurs, report it immediately to your supervisor. The potential for such incidents exists all over the workplace, so ALL employees (not just supervisors) must help identify them.
· If the near miss is a result of an unsafe condition, don’t continue to work under that condition until the problem has been corrected and your supervisor gives the okay to proceed.
· If the incident is a result of unsafe acts, be certain that everyone involved has been alerted to their actions before they continue with the job
Examples of Near Misses
· Someone mops a floor and forgets to place a wet floor caution sign. You walk through it and slip, but regain your balance and no injury takes place. What about the next person that walks on the wet floor? Will they be able to avoid  slipping and escape an injury? Report this near miss immediately.
· A projectile hits and your safety glasses but does not injure your eye. This suggests that work procedures might need to be re-evaluated and the equipment should be checked for the proper guards. What about the person that uses the same machine after you? They might not be so lucky.
· Other near misses include, electrical cords causing trip hazards, A falling object that hits the ground in front of you, a fork lift that almost ran into you or materials, a crack in the cement that causes someone to trip, but they regain their balance. If any of these has happened to you, did you report it?
It takes time to report a near miss and there are several reasons people don’t do it. However, it is truly important you report them. If not, what is lost is a free lesson in injury prevention. The few minutes spent reporting and investigating near-miss incidents can help prevent similar incidents, and even severe injuries. Remember, near misses are warnings.  If we heed these warnings and look for causes and focus on changing behavior, we may be able to prevent injury or damage.

Creating an effective safety culture that can identify near misses is an integral part of your loss control efforts. Contact The LL Roberts Group Risk Management Dept. today at 877.878.6463 for more assistance with all your employee safety needs.
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