If you’re on a construction job-site long enough, you may eventually encounter a near miss – a situation with potential to lead to injury or harm, but one that doesn’t end up hurting anyone. While it’s good that these situations don’t produce any injuries, they are still worth scrutinizing. You can think of any near miss as a learning opportunity – and a solemn indication that your safety strategy needs some additional attention, says BuildersMutual.
Examples of Near Misses
What exactly is a near miss?
This type of “almost accident” can occur in different ways. It could happen as a result of poor signage, improper rules, or poor communication. It could happen because of lapses in judgment with respect to safety standards. It could happen as a result of negligent behavior or horseplay. It could even happen due to someone’s clumsiness or naivety.
These examples of near misses can help you better understand what types of events we are looking for.
· A construction worker trips and almost falls on a pile of discarded boxes.
· A worker throws a tool to another person but almost hits a third worker by accident.
· An unstable ladder is identified as a worker begins to ascend.
· A worker finds a damaged (and live) electrical cord in a puddle of water, without anyone making contact with it.
· You discover a mislabeled harmful substance before anyone mistakes it.
As you can see, any of these near misses could have resulted in serious harm to the people involved with them. Thankfully, they didn’t. But each of these events only happened because of an error or a problem with your safety strategy – and it’s up to you to address that.
What to Do After a Near Miss
These are the steps that you should take after a near miss to improve safety on a construction job-site:
· Determine the cause. Gather as much information as you can, studying the scene, talking to witnesses, and evaluating the circumstances that led up to this event. Is there a rule that should exist, but doesn’t? Are the rules clearly communicated? Did employees flagrantly neglect your safety standards? Was equipment being used improperly? Were there tools, products, or other resources that were in an improper location? There may be multiple factors at play in each near miss.
· Educate. This is an opportunity to educate, or re-educate your construction workers – including people who weren’t involved with the incident at all. Anyone whose negligent or noncompliant behavior caused the near miss needs especially close attention, but everyone can learn something from each of these incidents. Go over the rules, introduce new policies if necessary, and make sure everyone understands why this event happened.
· Prevent. Next, it’s important to take action to prevent this type of near miss from happening in the future; no one got injured this time, but there’s no guarantee the outcome of the next incident will be so fortunate. Prevention can take the form of better posted signage, better employee behavior, more consistent adherence to the rules, better supervision, or any number of other tactics.
· Communicate. Foster a culture of open communication so your employees feel safe expressing their thoughts and concerns. Do not retaliate against or shame anyone who files a report on a near miss; instead, encourage people to report these types of incidents.
· Reassess your safety culture. Safety culture (see Wikipedia) is arguably your most important asset in preventing workplace accidents and injuries, says OSHA.gov. With a strong enough safety culture, all your employees will naturally make safety their top priority – and they’ll do a much better job of identifying potential hazards and near misses on their own, regardless of what rules, signs, or supervisory standards are in place. This is your opportunity to honestly assess the strength and consistency of your safety culture across your team; are there any areas that need improvement? What can you do to increase morale and improve safety prioritization?
No construction team wants to experience a near miss. However, take each near miss as a learning opportunity. Be thankful that the event did not result in a work related injury.
Last Updated: July 6, 2023