1. Simple system
If you want people to take time out of their busy schedules to create Near Miss Reports then you need to have a simple and straightforward accident reporting system in place.
Don’t make your process too complicated or allow it to overlap with others in the business, such as change management or safety maintenance. Overlapping processes can cause you to lose sight of the purpose of near miss reporting or mistakenly assume issues are fixed because the actions have been handed over.
Avoid long and complicated forms – there is nothing more off-putting than a paper-based form asking for irrelevant information. Really think through the process of near miss and accident reporting and only ask for what information you need and will act upon. Further details can be collected in the follow up RCA etc. Remember it is employees that are completing near miss reports…not safety managers!
Once you’ve devised and implemented a simple Near Miss Reporting System, make sure everyone knows about it and adheres to it. Make it mandatory to report every incident, however minor.
Safety is everyone’s responsibility. So it makes sense that every employee in the business receives appropriate training and is shown how easy and quick it is to complete a report. Tell them why it’s so important, give them examples of near misses and also show them how previous reports have improved safety at the company.
Collating reports and not acting on them is a waste of everyone’s time – and it could be putting people’s safety at risk – you need to take action.
There’s nothing more discouraging than taking the time to complete a report and then it disappears into a ‘black-hole’ never to be heard from again. If your employees are taking the time to follow the process then management needs to act on the reports. In larger organisations this may mean you have to appoint safety ‘champions’ who can share responsibility for taking the appropriate action.
Don’t be tempted to close out near misses before they are completed because you fear critical audits for not acting quickly enough. Instead, demonstrate you have an effective plan on how actions will be delivered. Remember, the long-term goal is to improve health and safety, not keep auditors happy!
If you want to create a health and safety culture in your business then always engage your staff, ask their opinion and value their feedback.
One of the biggest problems with near miss reporting and what causes programmes to fail, is the lack of feedback. All near misses should be acknowledged to the sender and should always be copied in minutes of meetings, progress reports and action plans.
Ideally, near miss investigations should be open and the findings reported back to everyone. For larger companies daily or weekly updates at team meetings are recommended. This also creates the perfect opportunity to advise employees of any changes to policy or procedures as a result of the investigation. You should also make the results available on the staff notice board or the company intranet.
Disciplining employees for reporting accidents or near misses will only discourage them from being open and honest about what’s happening in the workplace. Avoid blame and always thank employees for their contribution.
It’s important to see every near miss report as a learning opportunity and as a chance to reinforce continuous improvement in the business. Many companies find it beneficial to provide incentives or rewards to encourage employees to complete the reports – but as a minimum you need to acknowledge and thank them.