A near miss is any unplanned incident in the workplace that does not result in an injury, illness or damage, but could have.
Near misses are prevalent in many workplaces and, when employees report them, businesses can react accordingly to improve overall safety.
However, there are a variety of reasons why employees are reluctant to report a near miss to an employer, including the following:
- They’re afraid of punishment. Most often, an employee avoids reporting a near miss out of fear of blame or repercussion. As an employer, it is your responsibility to create a workplace culture that prioritizes safety. Whenever possible, encourage employees to report unsafe work conditions. Remind them that doing so protects both them and their co-workers.
- They want to maintain their reputation. People don’t like to admit mistakes, especially if that mistake is broadcast to an entire company. Workers may fear that owning up to a near miss will lead co-workers to see them as weak or accident-prone. To combat this, it’s important for employers to spend time praising those who do report near misses. Doing so can help improve a business’ safety culture, leading workers to not feel as worried about damaging their reputation within the company.
- They can’t identify a near miss. There are some instances where an employee may not even understand a near miss took place. When that happens, the incident goes unreported and the issue persists, creating an unsafe work environment. Education is key to recognizing near misses. Try building examples of near misses into your training programs or citing scenarios during informal safety meetings.
- They don’t know how to report a near miss. Complicated near miss reporting methods are the bane of workplace safety. If a system is too complex, more often than not, employees will just ignore it altogether. You want to establish a near miss reporting system that doesn’t involve too many steps and isn’t too complicated. Be sure to train workers on the system and remind them periodically to take advantage of it.
- They aren’t motivated to report a near miss. In some instances, employees may not see the benefit of reporting a near miss, especially if there’s nothing tangible in it for them. Offering incentives - like company recognition, gift cards, snacks, etc. - can increase the likelihood that an employee will report a near miss.
Reporting near misses is critical to the health and safety of all employees and can ensure that day-to-day operations meet applicable safety requirements. Armed with the strategies above, employers should be better equipped to encourage employees to help create an accident-free workplace.