Near-miss reporting: How to get employees to report near misses

A man in a construction hat works on a laptop in a facility.

Estimates have shown that for every lost time injury that results in three or more days, there have been more than dozens of prior non-injury incidents. So, why don’t workers report more near misses so there are fewer serious injuries?

A recent article in the May issue of the American Society of Safety Engineers’ journal, Professional Safety, “Near-Miss Reporting — a Missing Link in Safety Culture”, explains and explores reasons why workers don’t report near-misses and how to overcome those obstacles.

The article written by Caterpillar Safety Services senior safety consultant Mike Williamsen, lists eight unique barriers to near-miss reporting:

  • The status quo factor: People grow comfortable with how things are and don’t bother to change.
  • Fear of punishment and retaliation: Even if there is no prior history of retaliation at your workplace, it must be reinforced verbally and through examples that there will be no punishment for people who report near misses.
  • Lack of recognition or feedback: Managers often fail to follow up with the employee who made the near-miss report.
  • Peer pressure: Employees face pressure from their co-workers not to make a fuss about safety concerns.
  • Concern about record and reputation: Employees often fear that reporting more near misses will make them look bad and ruin their reputation among peers.
  • Desire to avoid work interruption: When a job has to get done on time, no one wants to be the person who causes a deadline to be missed.
  • Desire to avoid red tape: Many people have a natural inclination to avoid filling out paperwork and taking more time out of their day.
  • Fault-finding mindset: Managers have to focus more on future prevention rather than playing the blame game.

Williamsen suggests four steps to overcome these barriers:

  • Define expectations: The expectation might be that all employees report unsafe conditions.
  • Provide training: Tell employees why it’s important to report near-misses.
  • Measurement: This process proves the saying that what gets measured gets managed. Keep track of how many near-misses are being reported by employee groups (teams, shifts, etc.)
  • Recognition: Create a Crew of the Month award to recognize the top groups that took the most proactive safety steps for the month.

Some other suggestions that would increase Near Miss reporting:

  • Efficiency: Allowing employees to report near misses in a fast and easy way.
  • Analytics: What do we do with this information? Studies show that one of the attributing factors for management and staff to not report the near miss is that visibility across the organization is poor. Having a system that increases visibility into your organization’s performance will help your company mitigate risks.

Be sure to read the full article as there are lots of insights there. Remember it’s important to enforce a good safety culture in your business. Attention to detail, rewarding employees, promoting a great safety culture benefit you, your company and help you market your organization more effectively.

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