All businesses need to plan for health and safety and allocate resources to putting in place controls to the risks identified in their workplace as part of the risk assessment process.
Many businesses do this part well, however when it comes to monitoring the effectiveness of the measures they put in place to control those risks there can often be a lack of understanding around the importance of reporting hazards, accidents and incidents (near misses / undesired circumstances) and their subsequent investigation.
HSE.gov.uk state that ‘As part of your monitoring, you should investigate incidents to ensure that corrective action is taken, learning is shared and any necessary improvements are put in place.
Investigations will help you to:
- identify why your existing control measures failed and what improvements or additional measures are needed
- plan to prevent the incident from happening again
- point to areas where your risk assessment needs reviewing
- improve risk control in your workplace in the future
An investigation is not an end in itself, but the first step in preventing future adverse events.’
To help clarify here are the definitions the HSE use to differentiate incidents for reporting purposes:
Accident – An event that results in injury or ill health
- Near miss – An event not causing harm, but has the potential to cause injury or ill health (in this guidance, the term ‘near miss’ will include dangerous occurrences)
- Undesired circumstance – A set of conditions or circumstances that have the potential to cause injury or ill health, eg untrained personnel handling heavy objects
Dangerous occurrence – One of a number of specific, reportable adverse events, as defined in the reporting of injuries, diseases and dangerous occurrences regulations 2013 (RIDDOR)
Organisations are legally obliged to report near misses under RIDDOR to the local authorities.
Although every industry will present different risks leading to incomparable numbers, the simple principle behind the Accident Triangle theory is ‘reduce the number of near misses, and you’ll reduce the number of incidents that cause injury, fatality, or damage’.
*Heinrich’s triangle (Accident triangle)
The HSE’s evaluation follows a similar pattern, with roughly 90 near misses estimated for every accident.
The benefits of reporting near misses
As the same factors that lead to a near miss can lead to an accident, monitoring near misses can help you take proactive action to:
- Identify patterns in when and how things go wrong
- Improve health and safety training based on real scenarios
- Develop more effective health and safety policies
- Improve equipment safety vigilance and maintenance
- Encourage a safety culture
- Reduce the number of incidents
- Save time and money for your organisation
How to report a near miss
A near miss is an event not causing harm, but has the potential to cause injury or ill health therefore should be reported in the same way as any other accident as follows:
- Ensure correct people involved
- Make scene safe, gather information, measurements, photographs etc
- Gather relevant documents, eg risk assessments, maintenance records, etc
- Log the incident with the organisations preferred reporting system
- Have a responsible, impartial third party investigate the incident and interview any witnesses
- Is it subject to RIDDOR?.
- Find causes and fix them to prevent a recurrence
How to implement a near miss reporting program
The benefits of reporting near misses are clear, but the question remains how do you get your staff to buy into a reporting system?
Training is key to creating a culture where employees understand the importance of reporting accidents and near misses (their legal obligations) and feel safe to do so without fear of blame or reprisals.
Traditionally organisations use an accident reporting book and the HSE has also produced a near miss book for reporting incidents that don’t result in injury or ill health. However often in time pressured, busy environments, employees may overlook what might be considered ‘insignificant’ incidents because of the administration burden of form filling and subsequent investigation time. In this instance, technology can be used to streamline the process and reduce the reluctance to report the incident.
Accident reporting technology
There are numerous software solutions available now that are online and app based and can be used ‘on the go’, they can also be tailored specifically for your industry and organisation. By using an integrated reporting system, businesses can eliminate the manual paperwork and create a central place to upload files and images, this also gives an easily auditable timeline should you need it.
Ultimately, reporting technology helps your organisation to build a picture of your health and safety in real time (not retrospectively looking back over old data) to identify any non-compliance issues before they become a problem. And employees through training and ease of use feel encouraged and empowered to report issues and are reassured they are being monitored and addressed by management in an appropriate and timely manner.
If you would like to discuss accident or near miss reporting further with one of our health and safety consultants, please contact us or call 01903 740609.