Safety and OSHA News

Study: Near-miss reporting improves safety culture

Do near-miss reporting programs improve workplace safety? Early results from a study seem to say they do.

The University of Pennsylvania’s Radiation Oncology department instituted a Conditions Reporting System to examine low-level incidents.

All types of staff within the department participated in reporting incidents.

After just one year, results show a strong correlation between institution of the reporting system and increasingly positive responses to staff surveys focused on safety culture.

“By utilizing the program, we learn from all reported events, and are able to develop improved safety measures,” said Amit Maity, one of the study’s authors.

“What we’ve learned from reporting events has already led to a number of changes to departmental policies, procedures and workflow,” said Stephen Hahyn, chair of the Radiation Oncology department. “By reporting and investigating incidents, our faculty and staff are more confident … and we’re better able to identify any holes in our processes.”

The study team plans to continue instituting policies and procedures to ensure low-level errors are addressed and don’t become serious situations.

The ongoing study also seeks to determine whether its program decreases the number of incidents over time.

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  1. Near miss reporting is still a double edged sword. I work as a Safety Manager with contractor companies in plants. I am a firm believer in reporting Near Misses and acting on them as if they were actual injuries. This philosophy means that you need tota buy-in from your craftworkers. They need to understand that we don’t have to just learn everything the hard way. So, I’d reported more near misses to my client than any other contractors on site. I write reports not just involving the act, but steps we can take to prevent an injury. Our clients loved it, my Area Safety Manager (at the time) hated it. We had just 3 first aids in over a year and about 60 Near Misses. Then we had an OSHA recordable injury due to a craftworkers negligence. There were accusations that we had been hiding first aids and injuries because we of the number of near misses we reported, obviously our site was “out of control”. I pointed out other sites that reported zero near misses and had multiple recordable injuries. Just because others aren’t reporting them doesn’t mean they’re not happening.

  2. VS, I agree with you. I came from an industry where safety was the qualifier for future contract awards. Managing your program down to the near miss level does require total buy-in from you craftworkers, but it also requires 100% commitment from supervision to address unsafe behaviors and policy violations. I found that most supervisors are reluctant to discipline fellow employees. I’ve spent hours of one on one time with supervisors coaching them in how to manage underperforming employees with regard to safety.

  3. There is a great quote in the book “Managing the Unexpected” by Weick and Sutcliffe: To avoid failure, you’ve first got to embrace it.

    VS has it right that in order to apply prevention, you first have to identify where your risk is. You can’t manage risk if you aren’t aware of it.

    However, a near miss is still an incident. If it weren’t for timing and/or luck, it would be an injury. I suggest then that more should be done earlier and upstream of near misses and injuries. Leading indicators such as the environment (hazards, conditions), behaviors, and company culture should be analyzed for weaknesses and areas of improvement. Diligence in these areas are quite predictive of future incidents.

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