HS1 Near Miss – Your Early Warning System.
What is a Near Miss? Usually a near miss is defined as an accident or injury that almost happened – but didn’t. For example, the situation where someone trips and almost falls down the stairs but manages to grab the hand rail just in time, or when someone is almost hit by a reversing Police Vehicle in a station car park. In these two examples no injury resulted but this was the result of good luck rather than good management. A Near Miss is an unplanned event that did not result in injury, illness, or damage – but had the potential to do so.
Why are Near Misses Important?
In the simple examples given above, if an injury had resulted, we would have carried out an investigation into the circumstances and would have taken some form of corrective action. In other words, the decision to investigate and take corrective action is based on whether a person has been injured or not. So therefore, if no injury occurs, no investigation takes place and no attempt is made to prevent the same event occurring at some time in the future.
In essence what is happening is – we won’t investigate and take corrective action until a serious injury or major damage occurs which is far from ideal and contrary to our Legal obligations.
When near misses occur they can be regarded as early warnings that something is wrong somewhere – whether this be a local issue or a failure within the safety management system. We therefore need to encourage Near Miss reporting and further develop the systems we have in place which will allow us to take remedial action before an injury takes place – and of course, this is nothing other than good management practice.
When a Hazard and Near Miss report notification is received by a supervisor, the supervisor should discuss it with the person making the report, decide what corrective action should be taken and implement the change as soon as possible if it is within the supervisor’s authority. If not, the matter should be referred to the Health and Safety Unit for further advice – we are here to help. Near Miss reports and recommended corrective action should not be deferred until the next Health, Safety & Welfare Management Group meeting unless it requires further discussion. The idea is to take immediate corrective action now.
Many accidents can be prevented by taking prompt action to prevent a hazardous situation from continuing or developing into something worse. Therefore, use Near Miss reports as your early warning system – waiting for the injury, accident or for damage to be caused before acting just doesn’t make sense!
In addition to the above, please see below revised Procedure Guidance Note (PGN) 209 which gives further advice on reporting of near miss incidents and a guide on submitting Health and Safety forms.