Near-Misses can be an important risk indicator in the workplace, but they very often go unreported. However, there are ways that H&S professionals can improve the situation on their factory floors. Read on for 6 ways to improve Near-Miss reporting among your employees:
Investigating and Reporting Near Misses
Traditionally, the most common way of measuring safety is to count accidents that lead to injuries or time off work. Many manufacturers recognise that this is an unreliable, and much delayed way of assessing safety. Hence, the best employers encourage workers to report near misses, defined by the HSE as “an event that, while not causing harm, has the potential to cause injury or ill health.”
If you investigate your near misses, you can remove the causes of some more serious accidents. If people report that they nearly slipped on a greasy floor, an investigation can discover that the floor is greasy because of an oil leak from machinery, the machinery can be fixed and a serious fall can be avoided.
Ideally, you want your staff to go beyond just reporting the obvious near misses. If you nearly slip on a greasy floor, that was already a dangerous situation. The term safety observation extends the scope of reporting to things that could contribute to an accident further down the line. In the example above, you’d want someone to report that they noticed the grease leaking and cleared it up, even if they also fixed the leak. Collecting data on similar leaks could show a systematic problem developing.
In this post we’ve outlined 6 ideas to get your factory floors reporting near misses and safety observations. The headings are based on the EAST framework developed by the UK Behavioural Insights Team, but adding from our own experience of what works.
1. Make reporting it easy and accessible
People working on a factory floor don’t have easy access to a desktop computer. Supervisors and managers might move between factory floor and a desk, but by the time you logon to your PC and see the tens of emails that need to be responded to, is reporting that grease stain on the floor the most important priority?
Access to the reporting system using a device already in your pocket – your mobile phone – makes reporting of observations more likely. A picture can save you a few hundred words of description, so being able to include a quick snap shot of the machinery or workplace makes reporting easier.
2. Make reporting attractive and user-friendly
People don’t like hassle. Paper forms where you must write your name, the date, location and so on just add barriers to the idea of reporting. A simple form on a phone, which already knows the name of the reporter, the date and the likely location can reduce the effort needed to report.
Some report forms ask for role, department, contact details and even date of birth! If your reporting system links to your HR system, all this information can be available without extra effort from the reporter. Prompts and pull-down lists make sure nothing is missed, and that information is entered accurately. Different organisations use different terminology, so make sure your mobile app can be tailored to the language your employees are used to.
3. Make reporting social
Positive safety observations are a great way of making reporting more sociable. You could have a league table of which shift has posted the most examples of correct wearing of PPE, or a competition for the tidiest workshop. Capturing positive safety performance, and sharing it between teams shows that taking time to do things safely really does matter to the organisation.
Make sure that you give all employees feedback about positive steps taken as a result of near miss reporting. The reluctant reporter might change their mind when they see that everyone has benefited from new handling aids because a colleague made an observation about manual handing.
4. Make reporting timely
Accurate reports lead to faster responses. What time did you see the problem? Exactly where was it? The quicker you can get the report, the more accurate the information is likely to be – and the more likely you can prevent an accident. Mobile reporting allows people to make reports immediately. But what if they rely on a phone signal or on Wi-Fi, in an area where there is neither? Make sure your mobile app can save a report, and will upload it as soon as it gets back into signal.
Timely feedback to workers is an important motivator. If I don’t get any feedback on the problem I reported, I’ll stop reporting. If you can’t ‘fix’ the near miss immediately, you can still let people know what is happening. For example, if their concerns about noisy equipment or poor lighting are feeding into a larger refurbishment project. Best practice is to provide individual feedback to the reporter, and to look at an overview of reports at regular worker representative meetings.
5. Make a difference
If you follow all the steps above and succeed in getting people to report leading indicators, there are two sure things that will cause your project to come to a halt:
Nothing happens as a result: if nothing happens, people will see no point in reporting the next concern they have. If a worker reports something that can’t be acted on, at least give them some feedback to explain why. See the point above about timely feedback.
Negative things happen as a result: this is even worse than nothing happening. In one organisation the safety team rolled out an incident reporting system without involving the managers in its development. One morning, a manager suddenly had dozens of near miss reports in his in-tray. His response? To send out an email to all those who had reported what he deemed to be ‘trivia’. You can imagine their attitude to reporting changed after that.
Identifying some quick wins could show people the benefits of reporting. Is there any machinery that needs its guarding fixed? Is there a cumbersome process that can be simplified? Is there a new access platform that could be provided to make a job safer? Show people that their reports made a difference, and you’ll encourage more reporting.
6. Make reporting clear
If you’re struggling to get people reporting, it might be because they’re not sure what to report. A system that encourages people to report “all near misses” can be overwhelmed with trivia. Amidst the trivia, the important gets missed, leading to the feeling that it is not worth reporting. If you define near misses too narrowly people might avoid reporting something significant that you hadn’t thought of.
Many manufacturers improve the quality of near miss reports by specifying particular topics for a period – such as dropped objects, workplace transport or manual handling.
Provide people with examples of the types of things (positive and negative) you want them to report. Here’s an example to get you started – they all relate to a similar situation, but make it clear to workers which ones you’d want them to report:
You are using a forklift truck to fetch some inventory for the production line and:
- The pallet on the shelf has been badly stacked, and when you try to get the forks underneath, the load falls on the floor next to your forklift (ie hazardous event occurs, but harm avoided by chance).
- You notice that the pallet has been badly stacked, so you get inventory from another location (ie harm avoided but hazard remains).
- You notice that the pallet has been badly stacked, so you arrange for someone to use an access tower to remove items individually (ie harm avoided, and removed by corrective action).
- Someone is about to load the shelf with a badly stacked pallet, and you stop them before they do so (ie hazard eliminated by timely intervention).
Reporting and investigating accidents where injuries occur is essential. Failing to act on near misses has been used in court judgements where people have been injured as evidence of culpability, increasing the cost of the fines imposed. If you’re ready to take your incident reporting to the next step, take a look at our software solution today.