January 4, 2018 | Frank MacDonald |

Near-Miss Reporting and How It Can Help Reduce Hand Injuries

Picture this: You’re walking through a warehouse, as you turn a corner, a forklift is turning the corner from the other side at the same time. You’re narrowly missed.

The forklift stops, and the driver jumps out to make sure that you’re OK.

You both laugh from the adrenaline, saying things like “that was a close one.”

You go on about your day, never reporting the near miss.


If this accident could happen once, what’s preventing it from happening again?

The next time you might not be so lucky.

forklift in a warehouse


What is a Near Miss?

A near miss is an unplanned event that doesn’t result in injury, illness or damage but there is the potential for something bad to happen.

Near misses aren’t generally reported unless a specific program is put in place to address them.


Why is it Important to Report Near-Miss Incidents?

Think of reporting near misses as getting ahead of injuries. Kind of like the first thirty minutes of Minority Report.

It’s the ultimate predictive cheat sheet.

The information that is gathered through near-miss reporting can be evaluated to discover root causes and ways to fix the issues.


The Benefits of Near-Miss Reporting:

Near-miss reporting can help your senior management team identify weaknesses in your safety program and address them before injury occurs.

This can save your organization money down the line.

By reporting this near miss, management can review the procedures that are in place — does the forklift driver sound his horn to let people know the forklift is approaching?

Management can also look at incorporating new safety elements, like installing a mirror in the corner to let workers see if there is anything on the other side.

Remember that a successful program is a team effort, which requires that all levels of your organization be on board and aware of the goals.


Your Definition of a Near Miss:

Any program that is going to involve near-miss reporting needs to start with what it considers a near miss.

Is your organization’s definition a situation where an injury very nearly occurred or is it where a worker felt unsafe?

Without a consistent definition, there will be no consistency in your reporting.

The best place to start is to define a near miss as any situation where an employee or worker feels that their safety was compromised but no injury occurred.

industrial engineer


Encourage, Don’t Embarrass:

Don’t make employees feel that reporting a near miss will be a negative mark against them.

If reporting a near miss is perceived as an error on the part of your employees, they will not come forward.

Reinforce to them that reporting near-miss incidents will help you and remember to thank them for helping to improve the overall safety culture of your workplace.

Your employees should not fear any form of negative outcome or punishment for reporting.


The Five Mistakes to Avoid:

Research has shown that unsuccessful programs all had five flaws in common:

  1. Upper management support without engaging front line managers.
  2. Training failures from safety teams.
  3. Looking at near-miss reporting as non-value-added work.
  4. Lack of engagement for front line workers.
  5. Invalid, missing or erroneous data.


Keys to a Successful Program:

After identifying barriers that your near-miss reporting program might experience, what are some of the best ways to overcome them?



This is the most important step.

Training ensures that your entire organization is aware of the goals of the program.

Training also establishes your definitions and metrics, reporting procedures, and expected outcomes of the program.

Consider having practice sessions with example reports to show the entire process.


Proper Data Collection:

Non-injury and near-miss incident reporting templates are available online and will help with proper reporting.

If after a month or two you are seeing little or no data in the program, investigate the causes.

Workers will often only do what managers are telling them to do, you should make sure that management is supporting your safety effort.


Praise and Reporting:

Give feedback to workers who report near misses.

Let them know that they are not wasting their time and that their extra effort is appreciated.

Report the outcomes of your research in a newsletter or other high-profile work publication so that people can see the results of the ongoing effort.


Use the Data:

Use the near-miss data that you’ve collected to improve your workplace.

Both through tangible changes and improvements to your safety meetings and toolbox talks.


Add Near-Miss Reporting For a Stronger Program:

In its case study on near-miss reporting, OSHA identified a company of 130 employees that saw a reduction of recordable incidents from 4 to 1 in the first year.

By combining near-miss incident reporting with your current safety program, you can keep your employees safer, reduce costs spent on worker accidents and have a more productive workforce.


Want more tips on creating a safe workplace?

Read our post “How a Risk Assessment Can Save Your Employees’ Lives” now!


About Frank MacDonald