How to turn a near miss into a positive

A near miss can come completely out of left field despite your best efforts and even if workers are being as careful as they can.

It could be someone slipping in the loading area or a workmate being hit by a chain while securing a load. Or it might be potentially more catastrophic, say an out-of-control forklift – but thankfully with no-one injured.

While serious ‘notifiable incidents’ must be reported to WorkCover immediately, it is equally critical that you and your workers don’t turn a blind eye to smaller scale non-reportable incidents.

A seemingly insignificant near miss could be a wake-up call indicating safety precautions are not up to scratch and if swept under the carpet, your business could suffer. If another similar incident occurs, this time it might result in injury, lost time, the need to hire a replacement or pay overtime and a raft of other headaches.

But by learning from near misses and making changes – even if it’s something as basic as tidying up potential trip clutter in the loading area – you can help avoid downtime and ensure workers return home safe each day.

Some research suggests that for every incident where someone is injured, there are as many as 90 prior near misses. And just because a worker has got accustomed to using faulty equipment on a daily basis without incident, say a forklift with worn tyres, it does not mean that the forklift is safe to use or the worker is safe using it.

Although it might seem like a hassle, logging details of every near miss – no matter how minor – is a very smart business investment. Basic details you need to record are who was involved, when and where it took place, what happened and how.

Hopefully your workplace will be incident free, but if not, and the incidents are minor and you log them all – and schedule a regular review of the log – then over time you may be able to identify patterns and then do something about it before someone gets seriously hurt.

One problem you could face is getting workers to report every near miss or minor slip incident, as these are often laughed off or the worker might be too embarrassed to put their hand up. Another stumbling block is that a worker who accidentally drops a pallet and almost hits a workmate might not report the near miss for fear of getting in trouble.

So it is vital that you encourage workers to always report near misses. Assure them they will not face any retribution and might actually help to prevent a repeat incident involving a direct hit and tragedy. Reinforce this by establishing a work health and safety segment at meetings or toolbox talks, where workers can raise an issue or log a near miss.

Find out more about near misses and get some more handy safety tips at the WorkCover website or give us a call on 13 10 50.

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