Hit or Miss | Close Calls & Near Misses

We’ve all seen or heard about close calls on the job, where a workplace incident could have caused an injury, illness or fatality, but out of sheer luck, no one is harmed. When these incidents occur, workers often have a moment where they recognize the outcome could have been much worse. Many times, the incident is brushed aside as a fluke occurrence and then forgotten.

It’s important not to dismiss these “near misses”, as they are critical warnings that safety issues likely need to be addressed. Close calls need to be investigated to determine the root causes behind the incident. Without investigation, the proper actions can’t be taken to prevent the hazard going forward.

Incident investigations should focus on uncovering failures in the existing safety and health management program vs. trying to assign blame to particular people. A no-blame approach demonstrates that an employer is committed to continual improvement and providing a safe workplace, and may also increase workplace morale. Conversely, when people fear getting blamed, they may be reluctant to fully disclose what they know about an incident.

The main goal of the investigation should be to eliminate or reduce the root causes of unsafe conditions or actions. The causes can stem from multiple areas simultaneously, such as standard operating procedures, equipment maintenance, training, engineering controls, workplace design, and more. Once all the root causes are identified, changes need to be implemented to ensure those same conditions will not play a role in future incidents.

OSHA recommends a four-step systems approach to conducting incident investigations:

  • Preserve/document the scene;
  • Collect information; 
  • Determine the root causes; 
  • Implement corrective actions.

According to OSHA, effective incident investigation programs:

  • Include easy, clear written instructions;
  • Provide training on incident investigation and company procedures;
  • Collaborate with workers and management;
  • Focus on root causes vs. fault;
  • Seek to correct root causes;
  • Take corrective actions quickly once root causes are identified;
  • Review the program and incident trends at least annually.

Additional, detailed information on this topic can be found in OSHA’s guide on Incident / Accident Investigations. By investigating and taking action on workplace close calls and near misses, employers are more likely to identify safety issues in the workplace and fix conditions which could cause employee injuries in the future.

Date Posted: 05-01-2016
Tags: accident prevention, close calls, incident investigation, injury prevention, near miss accidents, osha near miss, osha safety topics, osha workplace safety, safety incident report,
Categories: OSHA Safety,