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What is a Near Miss Report & Why They are Important to Construction Safety

Ask any contractor to tell you about a close call they had on the job site and get ready for what is likely a very good story, and there are probably a few of them!

I’ll never forget back when I worked in the office at a roofing company and one of my repair guys called me to say he had just put his foot through a rotten spot in the roof.

He was calling me not to report the near miss but because he was stuck. He needed me to send someone to go in the attic and pull his boot off so he could pull his leg out without getting stabbed by the plywood shards.

When the ‘rescue team’ went in, they could see from the attic the extent of the rot. Had he taken one step further, he probably would have fallen right through.

What is a Near Miss?

By now, you’ve probably figured out that a near miss is anytime something happens on your job site that comes very close to causing harm to a person or property.

You can also consider an occurrence as a near miss if it would have caused harm if someone had been in the vicinity. For example, if someone drops a hammer off the second story of a building, it doesn’t have to come close to hitting someone to be considered a near miss.

Some other examples of near misses are:

  • Someone trips on an extension cord but doesn’t harm themselves
  • A forklift bumps a skid of material, it teeters but does not fall
  • An extension ladder tips over, narrowly missing a parked truck

The only difference between these occurrences and an actual accident is luck. Had the extension cord been next to a stairwell, the forklift been moving a bit faster or the truck was parked differently, the outcomes could have been disastrous.

What to do When a Near Miss Occurs

In short, when a near miss occurs, treat it like it was an accident.

Every near miss should trigger an investigation into what went wrong, determining all the contributing factors. Then changes need to be implemented in order to prevent a future accident.

When I treated that roofing near miss as an accident, I was able to launch a full review of our repair process. We ended up changing it to start with an interior attic inspection in order to spot any major rot prior to going on the roof. We also made the crews a minimum of two workers each so someone would be on site to help in the event of an emergency.

In order for the near miss process to work, your crews need to know they are responsible for reporting them when they happen. Had my repair guy not gotten stuck in the roof, I probably wouldn’t have found out about it because there was no injury to report and we didn’t have a near miss program.

Also, there must be no fear of repercussion when reporting a near miss. You absolutely cannot ask someone to report one and then reprimand the error, especially if it was human error.

A near miss must be looked at as a learning opportunity that will protect the future safety of all your employees.

What are the Benefits of Implementing a Near Miss Program?

Handling incidents as a near miss rather than waiting for the inevitable accident to occur means your job sites are safer. Safer job sites are first and foremost important to your employees but they also save your company money.

Basically, you are getting all the changes and modifications that follow an accident, to improve the safety at your company, without having to report an actual incident.

Lowering the number of reportable incidents means your experience modification rating (EMR) will go down, and that in turn will lower your workers compensation and insurance premiums!

How Harness Makes Near Miss Reporting a Breeze

You should already be convinced that tracking, investigating, and following up on every single near miss at your company makes logical sense and will reduce your workload down the line. But you are probably wondering where you will find the time to do that.

Utilizing a safety management system like Harness is probably your best solution. Every Harness client receives a custom-built incident reporting and follow up form, making it easy for:

  • Your foremen to fill out a quick form about what happened, capturing all the relevant info and even pictures
  • You to be immediately notified of the near miss
  • You or a supervisor to complete an investigation on contributing factors
  • Management to review graphs and trends involved
  • Positive changes to be implemented

To see a video of our Near Miss Report in action, Click the Image below:


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