How to Increase Near Miss Reporting: What Workers Know that Managers Don’t

increase-near-miss-reporting.pngIf you want to increase near miss reporting, you need to understand why workers don’t report near misses in the first place.

It’s hard to pin down the actual number of near misses that happen, but a report by Houston Business Bureau, CII and Exxon Chemical estimates about 1,000 near miss events for every fatality. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 4,836 people died in workplace incidents in 2015 — which equates to nearly five million near misses.

Even though 85.66% of companies track near misses and 71% of employees say safety training was part of their new employee orientation, the vast majority of near misses go unreported.

Why do so few workers report near misses?

A recent National Safety Survey asked EHS professionals about common complaints they hear from employees, but we wondered: What do employees have to say on the subject?

We interviewed Jason, a construction worker, to see what keeps employees from reporting close calls.

Our interview pointed to three potential reasons why it can be difficult to speak up about near misses: fear of retribution, inconvenience, and just plain not seeing the point. Below, we’ll dive into these objections and how to overcome them.

Eliminate fear of retribution

It came as no surprise that our source, Jason, cited fear of retribution as a reason for sweeping near misses under the rug. In a recent survey by the National Safety Council, 30% of workers said they’re afraid to report safety issues.

What did surprise us, however: Employees aren’t necessarily afraid of being penalized for having a near miss.

Instead, employees are nervous about having a near miss when they’re not following safety procedures.

Jason recalls slipping on oil and nearly falling off a piece of equipment. “I didn’t report it because I wasn’t wearing a helmet, and that could get me in trouble.”

Regardless of the reason, employers can increase near miss reporting by making it anonymous. This keeps the focus on lessons learned, rather than assigning blame.

Make near miss reporting convenient

Says Jason, “I’m not going to stop what I’m doing, log in to the computer, and fill out a form where 90% of it has nothing to do with me. It’s just easier to tell someone else next time they’re climbing up there ‘Be careful, it’s slick.’”

So what does that mean for managers?

Let’s flip that question: Have you tried filling out your company’s near miss form lately? Chances are, it’s a pain.

What works: Mobile near miss reporting lets employees report incidents quickly from their phone, when and where they happen.

  • Only collect the information you actually need
  • Make reporting available offline (remember, WiFi access isn’t always available)
  • Allow workers to upload photos for additional detail without extra work

Whatever you do, don’t make employees stop what they’re doing to fill out a near miss report.

Communicate the importance of near miss reporting

In organizations where serious safety concerns are ignored, it’s no surprise that employees don’t bother reporting near misses. After all, management clearly doesn’t value the information.

But 76% of workers surveyed by the NSC agreed that management shows that they care about employee safety.

So why do near misses go unreported in organizations with a strong safety culture?

One reason is the perception that ‘close calls’ are too trivial to report. Says Jason, “If I pass the information along to a coworker, I feel like I’ve done my job. I don’t feel like I need to tell the company.”

Your job and opportunity is to work alongside your employees to anticipate which issues go unreported, and provide training around those scenarios:

  • Clearly define what constitutes a near miss, and give examples.  
  • Show employees what happens when they report a near miss and how their efforts make work safer.
  • Deal with reported incidents swiftly.
  • Make sure employees know how to report a near miss. (Don’t assume!)

Incentive programs are another way to overcome objections. What did our source think about incentive programs for near miss reporting?

“I think that would be great. Whenever the company tries to bribe us to turn in receipts with a raffle, we all do it. I just never win!”

Your takeaway

Researchers estimate that near misses cost organizations over 6 trillion dollars — that’s twice as much as serious incidents or fatalities. Given the financial implications, impact on employee attitudes, and the potential to prevent accidents, managers need to do more to root out and address near misses. 

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