Don’t Wait for a Near Miss, Now’s the Time to Improve Your Lone Worker Safety

In this week’s blog, we'll delve into the concept of near misses, emphasising their importance in fostering a proactive safety culture.

Reflecting on the past and setting new goals is common practice, offering an opportunity for businesses to reassess health and safety practices.

What is a near miss?

Firstly, what is a near miss? Well a near miss is defined as an event that could have resulted in an accident, injury or damage to property but didn't. Near misses are important to pay attention to as they can provide valuable insight into potential hazards in the workplace that could cause incidents in the future. By addressing these near misses, businesses can take proactive steps to prevent similar, more serious incidents from occurring in the future.

What are examples of near misses?

    1. Slip or Trip Prevention: A worker notices a wet floor and takes a different route to avoid slipping, narrowly avoiding a potential fall.
    2. Equipment Malfunction: Before starting a task, an employee discovers a malfunction in a piece of machinery and reports it, preventing a potential accident.
    3. Chemical Exposure: An employee identifies a mislabelled chemical container just before using it, avoiding exposure to a hazardous substance.
    4. Fall Protection: During construction, a worker realizes they forgot to secure their safety harness before ascending a ladder and quickly rectifies the situation, preventing a fall.
    5. Traffic Safety: A driver in a company vehicle narrowly avoids a collision by swerving at the last moment, preventing potential injuries and vehicle damage.
    6. Fire Safety: An employee identifies a faulty electrical outlet emitting sparks and immediately reports it, preventing a potential fire.
    7. Communication Errors: A near miss can also occur in communication, such as when a misinterpreted instruction is corrected before causing an incident.

What is the difference between a near miss and an incident?

When it comes to employee safety, understanding the difference between what is an accident and what is a near miss is important. For example, if a worker trips over a loose wire and falls, this would be considered an accident. However, if a worker notices the loose wire and takes action to avoid it, this would be considered a near miss. By focusing on what a near miss is, businesses can identify potential hazards and address them before they result in serious incidents or accidents.

Why should near misses should be investigated?

According to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), In 2021/22, the estimated annual costs of workplace injury and new cases of work-related ill health reached £20.7 billion, representing a £1.9 billion increase compared with 2019/20. These figures highlight the importance of ensuring businesses have robust policies and procedures in place to protect their lone workers. Therefore, identifying what a near miss is, reporting it correctly, and instilling a culture where near misses are not just ignored could not only prevent any future accidents but also save your business financially.

What can you do?

The importance of carrying out thorough lone worker risk assessments cannot be overstated. By using detailed and regular risk assessments you can establish necessary measures to mitigate the risk of incidents and near misses. However, near misses are not just a consequence of incomplete risk assessments; they are valuable opportunities for learning and inform future risk assessments. Any incident, however minor, offers insights into potential vulnerabilities within the system. It provides a glimpse into what could go wrong under different circumstances. Each near miss is an indicator of a potential risk that may have been overlooked during prior assessments.

risk assessment template

It's also hugely vital to ensure that your workforce has access to the correct tools and equipment they need to work safely. This could include personal protective equipment (PPE), lone worker solution, and training on how to use it. Businesses should also ensure that their lone worker policy is up to date and takes into account any changes in the workplace or legislation.

What can you do to perfect your lone worker policy? Start by downloading our example lone worker policy.

Lone worker policy download

Reflecting on Safety Practices

By focusing on near misses and enhancing lone worker safety policies, you can contribute to a safer work environment, preventing incidents and accidents. Near misses are valuable learning opportunities providing insights into potential hazards that might otherwise be overlooked. Take the time to reflect on near misses and proactively address them to ensure a safer workplace for your team.

Have a question?
If you'd like to understand how SoloProtect can help to keep your workers safe, and deliver operational and financial benefits to your organisation, please get in touch.
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