Last edited 08 Sep 2016

Near miss

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) define a near miss as an event that does not cause harm but that has the potential to cause injury or ill health. It is also be termed a ‘dangerous occurrence’ in the Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations 2013 (RIDDOR).

A near miss is characterised by the fact that it is only because of a fortunate break in the chain of events that an injury, fatality or damage has been avoided.

Examples of near misses include:

  • A worker tripping over something left on a scaffolding rig but avoiding a fall from height by grabbing hold of a railing.
  • A large piece of construction plant being reversed on site without being aware of a worker operating behind.
  • Something being dropped from height and nearly hitting workers below.
  • Narrow avoidance of injury caused by damaged equipment and property, such as: fractured hand tools, power tools that are not properly earthed, ill-fitting personal protective equipment (PPE), plant with inadequate lights, loose handrails, loose floor plates, dilapidated structures and so on.

A high proportion of accidents are preceded by one or more near misses. A faulty process or management system is invariably the root cause that leads to the near miss and this should then be the focus of strategies for improvement. By examining near misses when they occur, patterns can be revealed which enable changes to be made.

It is important therefore that workers report all near misses, as, by recognising them and taking corrective action, the number of near misses, as well as actual accidents, can be reduced.

The occurrence of a near miss can encourage site foremen or health and safety officers to conduct a review of safety practices and adopt a strategy to prevent reoccurrence. By discussing near misses and hazards, workers’ awareness is raised and they may be able to identify other potential hazards that should be addressed.

The Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations 2013 (RIDDOR) require a responsible person (employers, the self-employed and individuals in control of work premises) to notify and keep records of specified workplace incidents. This includes certain workplace accidents, occupational diseases and certain ‘dangerous occurrences’ (including near miss accidents).

Examples of near miss strategies include:

  • Capturing sufficient data for statistical analysis, correlation studies, trending, and performance measurement.
  • Providing a convenient opportunity for ‘worker participation’, through toolbox talks for instance.
  • Encouraging an open culture in which everyone shares and contributes in a responsible manner to their own safety and that of their colleagues.

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