Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Near Miss Reporting: It Can Be For You!

Guest Post From Steve Minshall, CSP, CIH

Universal agreement is hard to come by, but many safety professionals, I think, support the notion that near miss reporting is a good idea.[By the way, if you don't like the term "near miss," substitute the descriptor of your choosing (e.g., near hit; close call).] The problem comes in trying to implement what is generally recognized as a reasonable and prudent practice. Cue the drums . . .and that's where Dr. Mike Williamsen with Caterpillar Safety Services comes in. Presentations on near miss reporting might be old hat to you, but during his session Williamsen provided a fresh perspective and suggested a Kaizen-like process to help overcome the common hurdles to successfully implementing a near miss reporting program.

Williamsen described the five fatal flaws of near miss programs:
  1. Upper management believes in the program but isn't engaged.
  2. Safety professionals have the technology for the program but struggle with how to teach it to people.
  3. Supervisors don't see the value.
  4. Hourly employees perceive that nothing comes from the program; or, when something does happen, it's over-done.
  5. Data management is problematic.
He further described a series of stumbling blocks companies encounter when trying to implement a near miss reporting program:

  • Maintaining the status quo exerts a powerful influence.
  • The meaning of "near miss" is not clear and that leads to less reporting
  • Forms for recording near misses present a whole set of issues (literacy; language; length; location; logistics).
  • There is a fear of punishment/retaliation.
  • It sends a mixed message about the competence or incompetence of supervisors and managers.
  • It creates more work and little or no recognition.
  • Programs fall into a cycle of no recognition and little feedback about results.
  • There is a desire to avoid work interruption in our "productivity culture."
  • It is seen as fault-finding.
So how is a company to engage its employees in a near miss reporting program? Dr. Williamsen suggests forming a near-miss kaizen team that has a defined purpose, outcomes and process. What all is involved in that? If you want to know what your peers know, contact Williamsen at I'm sure he'd like to talk with you about the process.