Near misses happen every day in the workplace. Losing balance on a slippery floor, stumbling over unsupervised items, standing outside a door as someone else opens it – most of us can recall a time we encountered a “close call” or “near miss.”
How did you feel after a near miss event? Scared? Relieved? Anxious? Annoyed?
OSHA defines near misses as “an unplanned event that did not result in injury, illness, or damage – but had the potential to do so.” According to a 2013 case study developed by OSHA and the National Safety Council, often the root cause of near misses are the result of a faulty process or management system. That means when a near miss occurs, companies should examine the procedures they have in place. How do companies do that? Let’s look at a near miss scenario and the steps taken to prevent similar incidents.
Recognizing near misses
At an automotive manufacturing company, lab technicians are hard at work finishing up a test rack to simulate the latest vehicle system enhancements. Due to the size of the test rack and the limited horizontal workspace to hang equipment, one technician temporarily leaves his unused power tools on the floor as he takes a break. During this time, a second technician enters the test rack area. As he navigates the space, his foot becomes entangled in the orange extension cord powering the tools on the ground. The technician stumbles and fortunately shakes his foot loose from the extension cord before regaining his balance. Recognizing the hazard, he pushes the tools aside to clear the floor and reports the near miss to his supervisor.
What could have gone wrong?
This workplace trip resulted in a near miss, but could’ve ended a lot worse. The lab technician could’ve fallen to the floor, potentially resulting in a fracture, a laceration, or disability. Should these injuries require medical attention or a trip to the hospital, the potential cost to the employee and the company is substantial. According to Liberty Mutual, falls on the same level account for 17% of all workplace injuries, amounting to a staggering annual loss of $10.62 billion for U.S. employers.
Responding to near misses
Knowing the cause of near misses in the workplace – in this case an extension cord from unattended power tools – can help employers put measures in place to eliminate near misses from the workplace. In this case, the automotive company decides to equip each workspace with warning signs to be placed by potential hazards. By utilizing these signs, technicians can alert others to potential hazards so they can be more cautious when approaching the area.
Best practices for near miss prevention
The automotive manufacturing scenario is just one of many near miss incidents that companies incur daily. The reality is near miss incidents occur every day in the workplace and hold potential for severe injury to employees. To prevent near misses in the workplace, consider the following best practices.
- Establish a near miss reporting system. According to OSHA, collecting near-miss reports helps create a culture that seeks to identify and control hazards, which will reduce risks and the potential for harm.
- Investigate the cause of the near miss. Once your near miss reporting system is in place, investigate the root cause of the near miss. You’ll most likely find the near miss was caused by work procedures that need to be improved.
- Encourage employee participation. When employees are reluctant to report near misses, then the likelihood an injury will occur increases. Encourage employees to report near misses by making reports anonymous and easy. If employees feel they’ll be punished or think the process is too cumbersome, they’ll often elect to keep the incident to themselves.
- Incorporate wearable technology and data analytics. To get an accurate assessment of your near miss incidents, considering using wearable technology and data analytics to track employee movement throughout the workday. The Modjoul SmartBelt is a great tool for companies and can track events like near misses so preventative action can be taken.
Need help tracking near misses? See how the Modjoul SmartBelt can improve your safety operations by scheduling a demo with our team.