As an employer, it is your responsibility to provide a safe working environment for your employees. A great tool at your disposal, often overlooked is incident investigation. So many employers document an incident, taking statements, and cataloging that information away, until the next accident happens. BUT, if you instead investigate every incident, both near miss and injury incidents, you will begin creating a safer working environment, one where every incident is a learn experience, a chance for change, an opportunity to avoid a similar incident in the future.

Five Reasons to Report and Analyze Incidents

1) It is a tool for predicting accidents. The value of “near hit” reporting cannot be underestimated. We know that behaviors that cause “near hits” are essentially the same as the behaviors that cause “hits.” The only difference is a fraction of a second or a very small distance. Reporting “near hits” and working to remove the basic causes and the leadership/control problems will reduce accidents. Studies have shown that over 75% of all accidents which resulted in injury or property damage were preceded by similar “near hit” incidents.

2) The method has been tested. Researchers have tested the concept of “near hit” reporting in two different fields. Firstly, a study in the US Air Force focused on the use of aircraft equipment. During the study, a total of 270 incidents described as “pilot error,” were investigated. By collecting the causes of the errors, it was possible to detect similarities and trends. Secondly, another study carried out by the Bureau of Labor Statistics in the US, set out to evaluate the technique of “near hit” reporting. Their findings make interesting reading.

1) Reporting and managing “near hits,” proved to reveal factors which were described as “errors and unsafe conditions” which lead to industrial accidents.

2) The technique was able to identify the basic causes of incidents which led to loss.

3) Potentially serious industrial accidents were identified by “near hit” reporting.

3) It is an effective way of reporting incidents. It seems that people are much readier to discuss “near hits” than about personal injury or even property damage. Psychologists assume that this is because there has been no loss and the person may feel that they have contributed to the avoidance of damage or injury. This factor alone may be the reason why people may be more willing to discuss “near hits.”

There are many reasons for not reporting incidents which cause personal injury and damage.

1) Fear of blame.

2) Poor understanding of the need to report.

3) A feeling that management will use the information against the staff.

4) Fear of spoiling a good accident record.

5) An “anti-management” perception.

In most cases, there are not the same barriers to reporting “near hits.” However, there is a perception held by a small minority that this type of initiative is worthless. The greater number of employees are prepared to understand the value of reporting and acting on “near hits.”

In a large engineering work shop, the number of “near hits” reported were shown on the same graph as the lost time injuries. The evidence was plain. As “near hit” reporting increased so lost time accidents dropped, and as “near hit” reporting declined, so the lost time accidents increased.

The information collected from the “near hit” reports form the basis for understanding the causes of accident in the work place.

4) It can be used to inform and educate the staff. When “near hits” are reported, the information can be used in a team talk to make the rest of the staff aware of the potential danger of a method or procedure. This information can be used throughout the country where there are work groups operating in a similar fashion. Regular team talks which include “near hit” information send an important message from the team leader to the staff. “Your safety is important to us.” In addition, when team members report “near hits,” they will feel that they are contributing to the improved safety of the work place. The team leader can use positive reinforcement to recognize this contribution of the team member.

5) It is a way to develop leadership skills. The use of “near hit” reporting can help a team leader to develop important leadership skills. He or she can use of positive reinforcement to motivate the continuing reporting of “near hits.” Once a “near hit” has been reported the team leader can develop the use of questioning techniques to explore the circumstances surrounding the incident and put in place a method of prevention. Careful use of these skills will allow team members to contribute to the overall safety in the area and even have some influence in other work places.

This training explains how to investigate an incident, if you need more components of an incident investigation program, check out what the EHS Center offers here

Beyond simply investigating the incident, you need to know how to root cause the incident as part of the investigation, the EHS Center offers a lot of resources for root cause here.

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