Learn from “Near Hits” to Keep Your People Safe
By Josh Williams, Ph.D.
Close call reporting is a key piece of a robust safety culture. The term often used in safety circles is “near miss” which is a complete misnomer. George Carlin famously joked that two planes almost hitting each other is actually a near hit and that a near miss would technically be an actual collision (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zDKdvTecYAM).
Tightening up your close call reporting keeps people safe. Organizations with a strong safety culture effectively support reporting near hits to prevent future and more serious reoccurrences. There should be an ongoing, active cycle of reporting close calls, making any system changes for future prevention, and sharing the details of the near hit with all employees.
Here are a few guidelines to consider with your close call reporting. Consider how well you do the following:
· Keep the reporting process as simple as possible. It should be simple and easy to report a close call.
· Create a learning environment to openly discuss the details of near hits. Information should be shared informally and in group meetings.
· Share close call information with all employees to raise situational awareness. This includes communications across different business units and locations.
· Prioritize and address close calls depending on the severity and likelihood of incidents occurring. Close calls with SIF potential need to be immediately and thoroughly analyzed with resulting findings disseminated across the organization.
· Use close call information to identify system weaknesses and failures. Oftentimes, poor procedures, equipment, scheduling etc. lead to close calls. These system deficiencies need to be immediately addressed.
· Identify solutions (e.g., facility improvements, training) for close calls with input from employees when appropriate. Front-line suggestions often yield the best solutions and also increases the likelihood of future reporting.
· Advertise these improvements with all employees based on near hit analyses to demonstrate organizational commitment to safety and boost morale.
Close calls may be swept under the rug if employees believe it’s too complicated to report or that they’ll be punished for reporting them. Near hits are teachable moments that help keep people safe because hazard awareness is increased and needed system improvements are identified. Close call reporting, when done correctly, is a powerful tool to improve safety culture and prevent serious injuries and fatalities. Take steps today to improve your process. Also, let’s start calling close calls what they really are…near hits!
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