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Health & Safety Metrics, Part 2 - Near Misses in Metrics

What are the near miss health & safety metrics?

In part 1 of our series on health and safety metrics, we covered the metrics related to Incidents. In this, part 2, of our series we will look at health and safety metrics related to Near Misses.

Near miss health & safety metrics enable businesses to measure and address the causes of near miss incidents, with a view to both preventing them, and preventing more serious incidents further down the line.

What is a Near-Miss?

According to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), a near-miss is an incident that doesn't result in harm but carries the potential for injury or ill-health. A near-miss is defined as an incident that could have resulted in injury, illness, or property damage, but for some reason or other, it did not. Frequently, workplace hazards leading to accidents don't cause injury due to swift action by individuals or sheer luck.

Near-Misses are also sometimes known as Close Calls or Dangerous Occurrences

Is Near-Miss an incident?

A near miss is an unsafe event not causing harm but has the potential to cause injury or ill-health. Some organisations treat near-miss as an incident and include them under incident reporting. Some organisations track near-misses, but report them separately from incidents

Why do workers need to report Near-Misses?

HSE statistics for 2022/23 show an estimated 561,000 non-fatal injuries in Great Britain during that time period. Every workplace has its unique hazards, making near misses a possibility in almost any setting. While reacting to hazards causing injuries is crucial, preventive measures are far more effective. 

Various data, including Heinrich's ratio, underscores the relationship between near misses and incidents further down the line. This is normally represented using the accident triangle:

The triangle in its basic form suggests that, for every major injury, there were a much greater number of nearer misses underpinning it.Therefore, by reporting, investigating and addressing the reasons for near-misses, the number of serious injuries can be reduced.

The numbers used in the triangle vary depending on the research used, and the number of levels in the triangle also vary (for instance, Frank E Bird expanded the triangle to include five levels) but the principle remains the same - reducing the number of less-severe incidents has a knock on effect on more serious incidents. 

What are typical barriers to reporting Near-Misses in the workplace?

Despite the preventive potential, near misses often go unreported.

Reasons include employees' unawareness of reporting procedures, perceived onerousness, lack of management follow-up, fear of repercussions, trivialisation of events, and concerns over blemishing incident records.

Ensuring the creation of a culture where safety concerns are openly discussed without fear of reprisal is essential.

Digital EHS Software like SafetyQube can significantly simplify Near-Miss reporting, enable capture of relevant data and evidence like pictures and videos and aid investigation. A UK construction company observed a 400%+ increase in the number of near-misses reported and incidents reduced by 70% after the implementation of SafetyQube EHS software.

How to measure Near-Miss metrics?

Near-Miss metrics are measured in different ways. This may be a number, a percentage, a ratio or a range.

Some key Near-Miss metrics include:

1. Number of Near-Misses

This is simply the total number of near-misses reported in a defined period. This could include minor and major near-misses or close calls or dangerous occurrences. 

While number of near-misses is a simple and important metric, incidence and frequency rates explained below tend to be more meaningful.

2. Reportable Near-Misses

There is no legal requirement to report near-misses to the HSE in the UK, that is unless a near-miss falls under one of the twenty-seven categories outlined in RIDDOR (Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations, 2013).

This includes, but isn’t limited to failure of equipment, incidents involving flammable liquid or gas, and incidents involving power lines. Therefore, measuring the total number of reportable near misses in a defined period is critical.

OSHA in the US, does not specify regulations nor require companies to report Near-Misses to OSHA.

3. Near-Miss Breakdown and Trends

Companies tend to look at the number of near-misses each month and year and break down near-miss data by hazard category, severity, root cause, impact etc. Companies also look at near-miss data by site, factory, depot, department etc. 

4. Near-Miss to Incident Ratio

This is simply the ratio of the number of Near-Misses to the number of Incidents. The higher the ratio, the better the company's reporting and management of near-misses and incidents. 

There are variants to this metric, where companies can only focus on Lost Time Incidents instead of all incidents. 

5. Near-Miss Rate

Near-Miss incidence Rate is the estimated number of workplace near-misses in a reference period divided by the estimated average number of people in employment in the same reference period (typically 12 months).

6. Near-Miss Frequency Rate

Near-Miss Frequency Rate is defined as the number of Near-Misses in a reference period divided by the total number of hours worked in the reference period and then multiplied by a constant like 200,000 (e.g. in the US) and 1,000,000 (e.g. in the UK). Typically the metric is calculated over a 12 month reference period.

For example if there are 100 near-misses over a total of 10,000 working hours then the Near-MissFrequency Rate will be (100 / 10,000) X 200,000 = 2000

The constant of 200,000 hours represents 100 employees working 40 hours (full time) per week, for fifty weeks of the year. This mimics an annualised, normalised metric.

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