The Definition Of A Near Miss In Health And Safety

Summary

The Definition Of A Near Miss In Health And Safety

The Definition Of A Near Miss In Health And Safety – Near misses, also known as close calls, are incidents that do not result in harm but have the potential to cause accidents.

While they are not actual accidents, they could have easily been if conditions were slightly different. Near misses occur more frequently than people realise because they are often overlooked or forgotten.

Near Miss Reporting
Near Miss Reporting

The HSE defines a near miss as an event that doesn’t cause harm but has the potential to.

near miss: an event not causing harm, but has the potential to cause injury or ill health

Who should report? – RIDDOR – HSE

Why do near misses matter if no one got hurt? While it might seem like everything is fine and there’s no need for concern, near misses are critical warning signs. Ignoring them could lead to future accidents.

Addressing and learning from near misses is essential to prevent potential harm and improve safety measures.

When a near miss happens, if no one gets hurt, it’s often just down to luck. This is both positive and negative. It’s positive because no one was injured this time. However, it’s negative because something went wrong, putting people at risk. Ignoring near misses increases the likelihood of future accidents where someone could get hurt. Addressing near misses is crucial for improving safety and preventing harm.

The Definition Of A Near Miss In Health And Safety – What is a near miss?

A near miss is an event where no one gets hurt. You might also refer to these events as close calls.

Near misses, or close calls, are situations that didn’t harm anyone but could have. They are not accidents, but they could have been accidents if the circumstances had been slightly different.

For example, a hammer falls from a scaffold platform and hits below ground. No one is injured, so it’s not an accident. But is it a near miss?

Working at Height

Yes, it is.

If someone had been below that working platform and the hammer had fallen, it would have injured them. This is an accident narrowly avoided—a close call, a lucky escape, an unintended incident that could have been worse.

You have probably experienced a near miss before. They happen more often than you think because they are easy to forget. If you’ve ever felt like you had a lucky escape or a close call, where something could have hurt you but luckily didn’t, that was a near miss. Because it’s an accident that didn’t quite happen, it’s easy to say, “Phew, that was close!” and carry on.

Since no one gets hurt in a near-miss event, there is no legal requirement to report it. Since no one was injured, there’s no need to record it in your accident book or report it under RIDDOR. However, because it’s not a legal health and safety requirement, it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t report and investigate near misses internally. You should. Reporting near misses can help prevent future accidents and improve overall safety.

What do near misses mean?

Near misses indicate that something went wrong. Why did that hammer fall from the scaffold? Was a toeboard missing? Was it resting on a handrail? Was someone messing around?

A near miss is a clear sign of a problem. It might not be a significant issue, but it could indicate that:

  • Something is being used incorrectly
  • Shortcuts are being taken
  • Workers haven’t been trained properly
  • A control measure has failed or isn’t adequate

Near misses reveal room for improvement. Relying on luck to keep people safe is a recipe for disaster. Addressing near misses can help prevent future accidents and enhance overall safety.

While it is impossible to eliminate all risks, a near miss indicates that risks aren’t being adequately controlled and improvements are needed.

Can near-miss reporting truly prevent injuries and enhance health and safety? Here are 5 examples of how near-miss reporting can stop accidents:

  1. Identifying and addressing potential hazards before they cause harm.
  2. Highlighting unsafe practices and prompting corrective actions.
  3. Improving safety training by identifying gaps and areas for improvement.
  4. Enhancing safety protocols and control measures.
  5. Fostering a proactive safety culture within the workplace.

You can create a safer environment and prevent future accidents by reporting and investigating near misses.

The near-miss triangle

We know that a near miss could have caused harm. And if it happens again, somebody could get hurt.

But researchers have gone further than this and looked at the statistics. And these statistics give us the near-miss triangle.

The Accident Triangle
Accident Triangle

The near-miss triangle, also known as the accident triangle, was first introduced in 1931 by Herbert William Heinrich and further developed in 1966 by Frank E. Bird based on an analysis of 1.7 million accident reports.

The near-miss triangle doesn’t mean it takes 600 near-misses until you have 30 accidents or deaths. You might have an accident on the first or second near-miss.

It does mean that for every 600 near-misses, there are likely to be minor, major, and fatal injuries and fatalities. A near-miss could be a warning that, without making changes, an accident is heading your way.

Why you should investigate near misses

The Definition Of A Near Miss In Health And Safety – If your business doesn’t have near-miss reporting, near-misses will likely happen, but you don’t know about them.

Here’s how things usually happen when you don’t have near-miss reporting.

The first time you find out about an issue is when an accident happens. Someone says, “oh yeah, that happened to me last week, but luckily I wasn’t hurt”.

It’s not great because now someone is hurt, and it could have been prevented. With near-miss reporting, you would have known about that close call last week and could have stopped the accident before it happened.

Implementing near-miss reporting allows you to investigate what went wrong:

  • What caused the near miss?
  • What equipment was involved?
  • What task was being performed?
  • What control measures were in place?
  • Why did an accident nearly happen?

Once you identify the cause of the near miss, you can fix the problem. If the issue that caused the near miss isn’t addressed, it will likely happen again. And next time, someone might be under that falling hammer. Near-miss reporting helps prevent future accidents and keeps everyone safer.

An Accident at Work

A near miss is an incident that could have caused harm. If it happens again, the consequences might be severe.

Reporting near misses is crucial for identifying weaknesses in health and safety controls. However, reporting alone won’t prevent recurrence. Reporting is the first step, alerting management or supervisors to the issue.

The next step is to investigate why the near miss occurred:

  • Did something fail?
  • Did someone make a mistake?
  • Are the existing controls sufficient?

By investigating the cause of the near miss and addressing any identified problems, you can prevent it from happening again.

Near-miss reporting should not become a blame game. When workers report a near miss, they highlight a problem and suggest improvements, contributing to a better health and safety culture. This is beneficial.

If workers fear reporting near misses due to potential consequences, crucial information about safety issues will be lost.

Remember, a near miss is an event that could have caused harm. Failing to investigate a near miss means missing an opportunity to prevent an accident. If the near miss recurs, someone could be injured. When an accident occurs, it becomes a legal requirement to record it and, if serious enough, report it under RIDDOR to the HSE.

The Definition Of A Near Miss In Health And Safety – Emphasising near-miss reporting and investigation helps create a safer workplace and prevents future accidents.

This article was written by Mathew Oldham (HSQE Consultancy Ltd). Mathew has over 20 years of experience in health and safety and an MSc (Hons) in Construction Management. Mathew is NEBOSH Health and Safety, Construction, Fire, Environment and Diploma qualified and CertIOSH.

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