Near-Miss Reporting: A Missing Link in Safety Culture
- Mike Williamsen (Caterpillar Safety Services)
- Document ID
- American Society of Safety Engineers
- Professional Safety
- Publication Date
- May 2013
- Document Type
- Journal Paper
- 46 - 50
- 2013. American Society of Safety Engineers
- 0 in the last 30 days
- 49 since 2007
- Show more detail
Near-miss reporting, or the lack of it, is a controversial indicator of an organization’s safety culture. Over the years, SH&E professionals have heard concerns about the statistical validity of the many ratios published in the literature. The term itself has been widely debated—should these incidents be called near-misses, close calls, near-hits or something else? This article uses the term near-miss because the author has found that a near universal understanding occurs when it is so termed. When applying the concepts presented, SH&E professionals can certainly insert their organizations’ preferred term. This article presents a practical process that should help overcome resistance to near-miss reports becoming a useful tool to help an organization reduce injuries. Limited research is referenced, not to statistically substantiate near-miss-to-injury ratios, but rather to show a long-standing interest in using this concept as another tool to focus on eliminating workplace incidents.
Let’s begin with this question: Does your organization receive about 50 near-miss reports for every minor in-jury suffered by workers? If not, several significant barriers within the organization’s culture may be preventing the organization from learning the lessons available from incidents that did not result in loss—at least not this time.
While building a power plant in Louisiana, a major construction company used an effective near-miss reporting program to trigger safety success. Eighteen months into the project, the site had worked 3.1 million hours without a lost-time injury, had an OSHA recordable rate of 0.68 and achieved Voluntary Protection Programs status. Additionally, the site worked the first 1 million project hours without a single OSHA recordable.
At the start of the near-miss reporting improvement project, the number of near misses reported averaged one or two per month (or about 0.005 per employee). Three months after initiation of the project, that number increased nearly 40 fold (to about 0.2 near-misses reported per employee). This level has continued to climb to a current level of about 230 near-misses per week (or about 0.6 per employee), which is more than 100 times the rate when the program was launched. This initiative has built trust, encouraged employee involvement, enabled the identification and control of previously unknown or unrecognized risks, and enhanced management credibility through visible, positive action.
While four main leading indicators (near-miss reports, near-misses resolved, supervisor audits, manager audits) were utilized to support this accomplishment, this article focuses on the near-miss indicators and the methods employed to overcome cultural barriers that typically inhibit near-miss re-porting success.
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