A lot needs to happen after a workplace injury. The injured worker receives medical attention, you file claims paperwork, and you conduct your investigation. Once you identify the root cause and contributing factors of the accident, you implement the needed steps to ensure it doesn’t happen again.

But what about when an accident almost happens? These near miss incidents typically go unreported, aren’t investigated, and no corrective actions are taken. But the problem remains, and perhaps the next time your employees won’t be so lucky.

Investigate a near miss as though it was an accident

The difference between a near miss and serious or fatal injury can be just a few inches. By conducting the same investigation for a near miss as you would a workplace injury you can identify problems and address them before someone gets hurt.

  • A supervisor normally leads the investigation—the most effective investigations also include managers and employees.
  • A good investigation also focuses on both what happened and why it happened—Learning the root cause of an incident and the contributing factors will help you identify and address potential problems that you may not have been aware of. Talking to witnesses right away is a critical step because the details are still fresh in their minds.
  • Identify all factors of an accident or near miss—This helps you make all of the changes necessary to ensure the incident doesn’t happen again. Follow-up steps could include new training or policies or engineering controls such as safeguarding of equipment or the purchasing of personal protective equipment.

Involve your employees

Your employees are a valuable resource when it comes to reporting near misses. Let them know you expect a report right away whenever a near miss (or actual accident) occurs. Other steps you can follow include:

  • Giving employees authority to stop work when an incident occurs. This encourages them to act right away instead of waiting until later and possibly forgetting to say anything.
  • Offering incentives for an immediate report. This could include a gift card, lunch, or special recognition during a meeting.
  • Focusing on the root cause. Keeping the focus on what happened and how to fix the problem, rather than placing blame, not only leads to a quicker solution, but demonstrates your commitment to a healthy workplace.

When a near miss occurs, a worker’s first thought might be “whew, that was close. Thankfully no one got hurt.” But then, because no one was hurt, it’s quickly forgotten.

Treat each near miss like an opportunity—an opportunity to identify what went wrong, make changes, and improve workplace safety.