A woker who climbs high and works

Why are your employees not reporting near misses?

By Brie DeLisi

Most industrial organizations have implemented some form of near miss, close call or observation program – whether it is a top-of-the-line app that make reporting a breeze, to paper forms that can be dropped in a box. While completely different methodologies, both will either succeed or fail based on the same factors.

We’ve seen a number of organizations with these reporting systems and incentive programs to report – a drawing for a gift card or pizza for the department every month. Maybe a quarterly “best reported near miss award.” And yet we consistently hear our client say that they just cannot get employees to fill out reports.

There are common factors that can be attributed to low reporting:

  • Employees may not understand what specifically should be reported. “Anything!” you say, but that won’t register – employees need specific direction so that when they see the specified hazard, they will think to report it.
  • The reporting system is inconvenient or too technical. If it takes the employees more than a couple minutes, they are not going to take the time to do it.
  • Most importantly: the employee never heard anything after reporting – even if the hazard was mitigated by maintenance or a violation was handled by leadership, employees do not explicitly know that action was taken due to their reporting. Why would an employee continue to report near misses if they don’t believe action is being taken? To them, a lack of closure feels like a waste of their own time and effort for something that will never be addressed.

There are a few critical factors that can be introduced for a successful near miss reporting program:

  • Explain the specific types of hazards that should be reported, with examples, as well as the importance of reporting near misses – to avoid potential future injuries and incidents.
  • Provide an easy-to-use mechanism for reporting and take into consideration the technological limitations for the majority of the workforce. If employees don’t typically use computers as a part of their job, an online reporting system may be inconvenient or potentially intimidating for those who are less tech-savvy.
  • Share relevant near misses across the organization so that lessons learned can be applied.
  • MOST OF ALL: close the loop with employees who report as soon as possible. Provide an immediate response saying, “Thank you for reporting and we will address as soon as possible.” When action is taken, or even if action cannot be taken, follow up with the employee to explain the measures and thank them again for reporting.

At Propulo, we coach leaders to focus on prosocial safety behaviors and avoid pitfalls that derail safety efforts. We can help your leaders stay on track and make step change improvements in your safety performance. For more information on this topic, read about Safety & Safety Culture at Propulo Consulting.


Organizational Learning and Occupational Safety


Can Your Leader at Work Influence Life at Home?