Reporting “Near Miss” Accidents in the Workplace to Prevent Future Injuries

Topics: Loss Control

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the number of fatal workplace injuries decreased slightly in 2017 (5,147) compared to 2016 (5,190). Additionally, non-fatal injuries have also gone down year over year. While this is undoubtedly positive news as it means employers are taking the safety of their employees seriously, the next step is to keep working towards eliminating these fatal and non-fatal events altogether.


Common Causes of Workplace Accidents and Injuries

When the workplace is as safe as it can be, accidents – and both the human and financial costs associated with them – are reduced while employee morale and productivity are boosted. It’s important to understand what the most common causes of workplace accidents are and the injuries that occur so employers can learn how they potentially could be avoided in the future. These include:
  • Slips, trips and falls: Wet or greasy floors, cluttered hallways, level changes and even just certain floor surface types can all increase the risk of employees slipping, tripping or falling and suffering an injury.
  • Burns or scalds: In the food service industry alone, the Burn Foundation reports around 12,000 burns every year. Too often, workers come into contact with hot grills, stoves or oil or are not using the proper protective gear to keep them safe from a burn or scald.
  • Muscle and back strains: Workers in a variety of industries often overexert themselves when lifting heavy objects incorrectly, which commonly leads to muscle strains in the lower back.
  • Cuts and lacerations: Employees who work with knives, sharp tools or machinery are subject to cuts, punctures, scrapes and lacerations, especially if they aren’t properly trained on knife safety or how to safely use the equipment.
  • Transportation incidents: When staff are required to drive as part of their duties, accidents can occur due to not observing traffic laws or wearing seatbelts, severe weather conditions or driving at irregular hours.

Learning from Near Misses: An Innovative Approach to Preventing Workplace Injuries

workers review a near miss incident report

A recent report called Serious Injury and Fatality Prevention: Perspectives and Practices, released by the Campbell Institute, recommends that employers focus on reviewing both the accidents that could have resulted in a serious injury or death and the “near misses,” where a serious incident was narrowly avoided, as part of their injury prevention efforts.

Identifying and reporting on these near misses that had the most potential to result in a fatality or serious injury is a key component of the method described by the Campbell Institute. Organizations need to focus more on the root causes of incidents rather than “repairing the worker.” In other words, focus on improving processes that can help reduce common human errors that lead to injuries. Safety should be determined by these processes themselves, not employee behavior.

However, an obstacle to overcome with this method is the fact that employees tend to shy away from reporting a near miss, whether due to embarrassment about their mistake or worry over being reprimanded for their actions. The workplace should be a blame-free environment that encourages employees to report any type of near miss incident. In fact, employers should make the process of reporting near misses as easy as possible, because the data that can be gleaned from them is invaluable to improving overall safety.

Another challenge is to get employees to recognize some near-miss occurrences, such as a slip that almost resulted in a fall, while walking through a warehouse where a forklift has been leaking hydraulic fluid. While the incident did not result in any injury, if the person had fallen any number of injuries could have occurred.


Near Miss Incident Reports

A few best practices to creating a reporting system for near misses include:
  • Establish a culture that encourages employees to report incidents immediately, with no discipline, and with the option of remaining anonymous if the employee desires.
  • Investigate to determine the source and any weaknesses in the current systems or processes that resulted in the near miss incident.
  • Analyze the results of the investigation to reduce risks, increase employee safety and create training exercises for ongoing improvement.
Keep in mind that although a near miss means luckily no employees were injured, reporting on them is vital in preventing serious and even fatal incidents. They can be used as key indicators for the steps that need to be taken to improve safety in the workplace.


Loss Control Services from AmTrust Financial

AmTrust’s Loss Control Department offers a variety of training programs, including streaming videos and safety resources designed to help reduce workplace injuries and improve employee safety. For more information about our small business insurance solutions, please contact us today.

This material is for informational purposes only and is not legal or business advice. Neither AmTrust Financial Services, Inc. nor any of its subsidiaries or affiliates represents or warrants that the information contained herein is appropriate or suitable for any specific business or legal purpose. Readers seeking resolution of specific questions should consult their business and/or legal advisors. Coverages may vary by location. Contact with your local RSM for more information.
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