NEAR MISS REPORTS: What They Are and What They Do For You

By John C. Williams

There are three categories of mishap reports available in the Enterprise Safety Applications Management System: mishap reports, property damage reports and near-miss reports. The mishap and property damage reports are self-explanatory, but the near-miss reports category does need additional explanation. This category has the potential to save more lives than the first two report categories combined.

The National Safety Council defines a near-miss as: “An unplanned event that almost results in a fatality, injury or property damage event. A fortunate break in the chain of events is the only thing that prevents a mishap from occurring.”

Such events occur on an almost daily basis sometimes without our knowledge. We often hear people say that it was his or her time to go after a fatal accident claims the life of a coworker. As medical technology has advanced in curing the top three causes of death – heart disease, cancer, and stroke – the average lifespan for Americans has increased over the last half-century. According to the Centers for Disease Control, the lifespan of an American male born after 1949 is 82 years, so if a worker is killed in a preventable mishap, and he or she is younger than 82 years old, it wasn’t their time to go!

Most people are unaware of the hidden dangers that surround them on a daily basis, which is why near-miss reports are so vital to maintaining a safe working environment. You can see from the mishap hierarchy in figure 1 that each fatality comes on the heels of a number of injury causing or property damaging mishaps; which in turn come on the heels of an even greater number of near-miss events. It seems strange how no one seems to recognize a danger or hazard until someone is killed. Then suddenly, everyone knows about the issue and when the victim’s coworkers are interviewed, they all claim they knew about the hazard, but failed to report it.

In fiscal year 2014, active-duty and Department of Defense civilian employees assigned to the Naval Computer Telecommunications Area Master Station, Pacific (NCTAMS PAC) submitted 23 near-miss reports; the following fiscal year, the command experienced a 25 percent decrease in mishaps. We are not making a direct correlation between the number of near-miss reports submitted and the number of reportable mishaps tallied, but one cannot completely dismiss the effect these near-miss reports had on the command safety climate. After all, not every near miss involves finding and deactivating a landmine. We are charged with calling attention to different types of hazards and risks that are out there, and yes some hazards can be likened to land mines just waiting for an unsuspecting victim.

In August 2015, a Sailor assigned to the Naval Information Operations Command (NIOC) injured his foot while playing barefoot on the sandlot volleyball court in front of the bachelor enlisted quarters. The ball was hit over the fence; so the young man jumped over the fence to retrieve the ball and upon jumping back onto the court, he landed on the edge of a rusty metal pipe that was lying on the ground. Should he have been wearing foot protection? The answer is yes, but how many of us think twice about kicking off our shoes or sandals when playing a pick-up game of volleyball? This is why we solicit near-miss reports, because you may be the only person who recognizes the hazard. We are often so focused on the tasks at hand that we don’t recognize danger or perceive the hazards around us. Ten minutes spent filling out a near-miss report can prevent days, weeks or even months of recovering from a severe injury or even a death caused by a hazard that someone else recognized but failed to report.

Remember, a near-miss is an event that almost causes a serious injury but doesn’t. If such an event occurs, and you’re not sure if it rises to the level of a full-blown mishap, alert your supervisor and division or department safety representative or call the safety office for support. Safety is everyone’s responsibility and our actions could prevent injury or save a life.


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