Why Don't Employees Report Near Misses?

Nov 16, 2011 6:53:00 AM | Posted by Gene Niewoehner

Would you stand idly by while a two-year old chews on an electrical cord plugged into a live electrical outlet? Would you watch a relative stand on the top rung of your wobbly wooden ladder to help you hang Christmas lights?

All of us would answer the first question with a very quick "no." The second, some of you may answer with a laugh, depends on who the relative is. But let’s assume some level of safety consciousness is inherent in all of us; we know right from wrong and, for this discussion, the answer to both of these questions is no. With two “no” answers, why is it so hard to get employees to recognize and report near misses?

Research shows that for every 15 near misses, there will be one injury. In other words, that’s 15 missed opportunities to prevent injury. Let’s face it; no one wants to see someone injured. Ignoring a near miss — and the conditions that led to it — is an open invitation for an accident. With enough time and sufficient data we can determine why a near miss occurred and propose improvements to prevent it from happening again. But, we can only accomplish this when employees report the near miss.

With the majority of safety activities being reactive (versus proactive), many organizations still wait for losses to occur before taking steps to prevent recurrence. Near misses often precede loss-producing events, but are largely ignored because nothing (no injury, damage or loss) happened. Even when empowered with a no-fault reporting system, employees don't report close calls.

Capturing a near miss is an inexpensive learning experience with some equally beneficial spinoffs. It’s a great opportunity for employee participation — a basic requirement for a successful EHS Programs. Recognizing and reporting near misses can make a major difference to the safety of your workers.

So when and how does a culture really change? What role does an organization’s leadership play? Do your employees believe it isn't important to report near misses? Are we in fact placing all employees at risk?

Near misses are warnings. Next time you witness one, think twice about two simple words: "What if." If you have a near miss in traffic, ask yourself, “What if I slammed into that car without wearing my seatbelt?” If you have a near miss on the job, ask yourself, “What if that dropped brick hit me when I didn’t have my hardhat on?” Or. “What if I didn’t pull my hand out of that machine just in time?”

Always report near misses. It’s an opportunity to help a coworker, family member or friend.

Do you or your employees report near misses?

Topics: Safety , MAVERICK