How to create a successful and sustainable near miss culture

The importance of establishing a near miss culture is clear. The OSHA and National Safety Council Alliance, a cooperative program, puts it this way: “History has shown repeatedly that most loss producing events (incidents), both serious and catastrophic, were preceded by warnings or near miss incidents. Recognizing and reporting near miss incidents can significantly improve worker safety and enhance an organization’s safety culture.” Effective near miss programs can prevent more serious incidents from occurring.

A previous post highlights some of the challenges surrounding this issue. Fear of reprisal or embarrassment, difficulty in the reporting process, and a sense of futility if reports don’t result in tangible changes. Each challenge presents obstacles when trying to establish a near miss culture.

Keys to overcoming obstacles and establishing a near miss culture

The OSHA article cited above provides the following list of best practices:

  • Leadership must establish a reporting culture that reinforces every opportunity to identify and control hazards, reduce risk, and prevent harmful incidents must be acted on.
  • The reporting system needs to be non-punitive and, if desired by the person reporting, anonymous.
  • Investigate near miss incidents to identify the root cause and the weaknesses in the system that resulted in the circumstances that led to the near miss.
  • Use investigation results to improve safety systems, hazard control, risk reduction, and lessons learned. All of these represent opportunity for training, feedback on performance, and a commitment to continuous improvement.
  • Near miss reporting is vitally important to preventing serious, fatal, and catastrophic incidents that are less frequent but far more harmful than other incidents.

Using the right RMIS can help change the culture

Simplify the process

The National Safety Council (NSC) resource on developing near miss reporting suggests, “Make the reporting system easy to understand and use.” Anonymous, customized forms allow your organization to collect only the information required (shorter forms = more submissions), and tailor the instructions and labels to fit each location, role, or business unit. Forms should be designed so that workers capture information quickly and return to their job right away.

Involve leadership

Safety and Health Magazine writes, “Leadership buy-in is critical. Those at the top need to establish a reporting culture that reinforces the importance of identifying and controlling hazards at every opportunity.” To do this, create tailored reporting for leadership that allows them to easily communicate what efforts have been tried and what the results are.

Measure employee education effectiveness

Aside from ensuring that each employee fully understands the reporting process, employees also need to be educated on the importance of how near miss reports help keep their teammates safe. Flexible audit technology can track how effectively training is being delivered, if it is focused on the most critical issues, and which parts of the organization may not be complying.

Focus on results

How to Improve Your Near Miss Reporting states, “The best reinforcer for reporting a near miss is to know it helped others avoid getting hurt, or improved safety in some way. The worst-case scenario is near miss reports that appear to go into the organizational black hole, never to be seen or heard about again.” Automated reports and custom portals can push the results of actions taken due to near miss reporting down to operational supervisors. This allows each line manager to communicate the impact that near miss reporting has on safety.

Collect better data

As we discussed in the article Adding Sketch Elements to Mobile Forms to Improve Data Collection, visual data such as images and annotated sketches can provide additional, more actionable information for those investigating incidents. By preventing back-and-forth requests for clarification, visual elements can shorten the process and eliminate cycles.

Get data from the field

The ability to input incident and near miss data while in the field can be a critical part of the process. Narrowing the time before investigations are conducted is essential as Kipp Rowland, Senior Risk Improvement Representative for EMC Insurance Companies notes, “Conduct near-miss investigations within 24 to 48 hours of the incident, while people’s memories are fresh about what happened and how the incident could have been prevented.” Mobile reporting reduces lag time and helps investigations begin faster.

Origami Risk near miss reporting solutions

Origami Risk offers an integrated solution that includes customizable forms, anonymous entry, mobile incident collection, and the ability to easily attach photos or sketches to a form. Additionally, robust reporting and automated workflow ensure that everyone from the c-suite to the warehouse floor can see the impacts of near miss reporting. Flexible audit functionality tracks both near miss training and compliance with corrective actions.

An effective near miss culture can be a tremendous asset for any organization. Fewer employee safety incidents and reduced property losses are two of the many benefits. With the right solution, your organization can make it easier to act on near miss data and prevent the next incident.