Why near-miss accidents are often NOT reported (and why they should be)

Reporting Near Miss accidents

Near-misses – the ‘that was close!’ moment that saw you or a colleague within a whisker of being seriously hurt or worse – probably happen more than we think. We don’t know because near-miss accidents are not often reported. Why? And why should they be?

Reasons why near-miss accidents at work aren’t reported

  1. Underplayed – was it really that serious? It didn’t happen, did it, so why make a fuss? Near-miss accidents are symptomatic of something bigger, whether that is complacency or lack of training or the correct equipment, so by underplaying the near-miss, we miss a vital opportunity to put this right and to improve things too.
  2. Fear – perhaps the most common factor in not reporting near-miss accidents or even an accident at work itself is fear: fear of losing their job, fear of being wrong, fear of what people will think… the list goes on.
  3. Embarrassment – we’ve all heard that so-and-so is ‘accident prone’ or that someone else is referred to as ‘sick note’ behind their back. When workers hear these disparaging remarks, they can become of the opinion that to admit to a near miss or accident at work is embarrassing. Almost like the expression ‘making a mountain out of a molehill’.
  4. Paperwork, paperwork, paperwork… – reporting a near miss at work can be complicated, or so we believe. If the accident didn’t actually happen, what are you reporting? Does it go into the accident book? Is there another form? Who needs to see it? The questions go on and on…
  5. Colleague pressure not to report – maybe your colleagues won’t see it with the same eyes as you do. So when that happens, we assume that it’s best to stay quiet because some of our colleagues give us the impression that to do so is best for ‘everybody’. But is it? Will the next time it happens result in a near-miss? How many times has it happened before and not been reported? This may not be the isolated incident you think it is.
  6. Attracting the wrong kind of attention – by reporting a near-miss, no matter what kind of accident it is, it has the potential to attract the ‘wrong kind of’ attention from outside agencies, the media and the general public. The assumption here is that attention is negative but, if the company shows it takes safety seriously and is actively seeking to resolve the problem, surely that is good publicity?
  7. It’s easier not to bother – no need to fill in forms, just chalk it up to experience. Say nothing. Do nothing. It’s far easier to stay quiet because who wants to make a fuss?
  8. No one’s interested anyway – if an employee perceives that the company isn’t interested, there is little point in reporting it. Nothing will be done, nothing will change.
  9. It’s pointless – just how serious is a near-miss accident?

Pieces of the jigsaw

In order for a company to see the bigger picture of health and safety at work, employees must report and monitor near misses. This may give senior management a fright as these ‘small incidents’ can skew health and safety monitoring to such an extent, that some companies pull back from it.

However, by sticking with it and monitoring near-misses, a clearer and honest picture of health and safety at work begin to form.

The truth is, many of these near-misses can be dealt with by making small but essential changes. Far better to understand the picture and prevent a serious accident than try to salvage your organisation’s reputation after an accident has happened.

How can we help you?

If you are in need of assistance with any aspect of Health and Safety management, here at Synergos we’d be delighted to help. Whether you have questions or are looking for advice and support to maintain standards, call 01484 666160 or Email info@synergosconsultancy.co.uk and we’ll be happy to talk it over with you.

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Steve Kilburn
Steve Kilburn
I initially trained as an industrial chemist working in a variety of manufacturing environments eventually moving into quality management which grew to encompass environmental and occupational health and safety management systems. I hold a Masters Degree in Health and Safety law and Environmental Law and a Post Graduate Certificate in Sustainable Waste Management and I am a Graduate Level Member of the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH). In my spare time I enjoy reading, my favourite author is Stephen King, and listening to music, generally from the late 70’s, 80’s and 90’s.
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