Near-miss reporting of unsafe events is a leading indicator that has had some use across high-risk industries. The use of leading indicators helps to predict future safety issues that can lead to workplace injuries and fatalities. Typically organisations rely on lagging indicators such as incidents, injuries and days off work. Some of this data can be up to two years behind, especially when looking at industry statistics. However, the immediate reporting of a near-miss event can shed some valuable light on where safe practices may have gone astray.
For this article, we look at some research that provides details of a case history of a near-miss reporting programme conducted in the construction industry. The results show that by including a near-miss reporting programme there is a substantial reduction in total recordable injury frequency rates.
What is Near-Miss Reporting and How Can We Use It?
Near-miss reporting is a recording of safety breaches that did not result in an injury but could do so in the future under slightly different circumstances. Using these types of programmes moves the organisation from a reactive, process-driven position to a proactive and responsive one.
Worker perception of management’s commitment to safety plays an integral role in the effectiveness of any safety initiative. Managers need to support the use of near-miss programmes. For near-miss programmes to be effective, safety experts within the organisation must prepare the groundwork through appropriate pre-implementation processes. These processes include establishing clear definitions for what constitutes a near-miss event. You need to determine the different categories of near-miss reporting events. Most importantly, you need to educate all workers on how to recognise and report these events.
See our article, Can Employees Recognise, Recall and Report Workplace Hazards?
De-identify and compile the near-miss data into a database system. It is here that you can run some analysis to find any trends that you can distribute to the workforce through your reporting mechanisms. Appropriate corrective actions can then be recommended and implemented. Finally, any lessons learned should be used to guide future training.
See our article, Can Construction Supervisors Recognise Workplace Hazards?
How Did the Study Establish a Near-Miss Reporting Programme?
To research sought to test whether establishing near-miss reporting had positive effects on safety performance. The study set up the programme in a series of stages.
- Establish support and commitment from senior management – this might take a bit of convincing to ensure they see the value. In the study, after the manager’s concerns were alleviated, they supported the programme.
- Develop a near-miss definition using simple language – in this study, they use an explanation along the lines of if you think that the event was too close for comfort, that was a near miss. It’s a good idea to use this messaging together with an image to illustrate the difference between an incident and a near-miss. In the study, they showed a worker being hit by a box as an incident and a box falling and landing close to a worker as a near-miss.
- Set up some guidelines – anonymous reporting, no blame, providing feedback and acting on near-miss reporting. In this organisation, they set up an automated phone number and workers could leave a recorded message. Communication about near-miss events became part of the regular toolbox meetings. They displayed the reports in the lunchrooms and the results were included in senior management meetings. Finally, they placed the near-miss information on electronic message signs and updated the data every day.
What Were the Results?
The near-miss reporting programme ran for four years (2012-15) and over that time the number of reports saw a steady increase. The near-miss reports ranged from 64 in year one to 397 in year four. During the running of the programme, they saw a significant improvement in their TRIFR. The rate began at 9.84 and reduced to 1.15 by the fourth year. Anyone would agree that this is a significant result given the average construction company in 2015 had a TRIFR of 14.29.
How Can Tap into Safety Help to Increase Hazard Awareness Skills?
The research indicates that near-miss reporting programmes are effective and can improve overall safety performance. However, effective near-miss reporting relies on workers recognising workplace hazards. If they don’t recognise the risk, they won’t understand the relationship to any near-miss events. Hazard perception training should be made available to educate all staff on how to work safely work and how to spot a potential hazard.
Training delivery is essential especially around specific workplace hazards, such as moving equipment, and this is where virtual and interactive training methods make a serious difference. Learners need ownership, an active role in the process and relevance. When you produce a learning interaction that guides and embeds knowledge, it is more likely to be ingrained during subsequent work practices and help your employees to recognise near-miss events.
Safety training delivery is changing and changing fast due to new employees being part of a technology-savvy generation [see our article on immersive training methods]. The increased use of smartphones, gaming platforms, social media is influencing their expectations of receiving interactive, relevant safety. Training is no longer consumed by this generation, as it has been in the past via passive deliveries, e.g. classroom chalk and talk.
There’s now more emphasis than ever to create engaging learning experiences that adopt virtual technologies and digital sites. Proactive hazard identification learning activities have been shown to embed knowledge and significantly reduce workplace incidents and injuries.
For more information on the Tap into Safety training platform, please contact us. We can arrange a free demo.