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Narrowly escaping an accident that could have been quite serious is a relief for everyone involved, and it’s common to share this information with others. However, this shouldn’t just be informal – you should also notify your supervisors that a near miss occurred. Filling out a near miss report form is the best way to do this – but why should you?
First, let’s define what a “near miss” is in workplace safety contexts. The near miss exists in a gray area between discovering a possible workplace hazard that might lead to an accident if left unaddressed and an accident actually occurring. In real-world situations, a possible workplace hazard would be a section of a walkway that is slick from condensation caused by a leaking air conditioner unit. A workplace accident would be someone slipping, falling, and injuring themselves due to the slick floor. A near miss, meanwhile, would be someone slipping but catching themselves in time without the incident leading to an injury.
Reporting near misses plays an important role in workplace safety for a number of reasons. First and foremost, it serves as official notice to an employer that there is an issue that needs to be addressed immediately. In the above example, someone who slipped and almost fell can report the problem, which would then result in the walkway being cleaned and the air conditioner’s leak getting fixed.
Second, filing a near miss report provides valuable context to employers that there could be other, similar issues that have remained undetected, just as the original issue was. Again, following the above example, a near miss report related to the workplace hazards posed by a leaky air conditioner could prompt an employer to check the entirety of their HVAC infrastructure for other possible safety hazards, offering them opportunities to eliminate these hazards before a problem occurred.
Near miss reports are usually informal, and there may not be any solid format for them. That’s because, since no one was injured in a barely avoided accident, the need for exacting documentation isn’t present. However, it’s still very beneficial to fill out and file a near miss report for the reasons outlined above.
While these reports are less formal, they should still be made in writing. Sending an email to a supervisor about the near miss is often the best method, as this creates a record of the near miss that exists both in your supervisor’s inbox as well as in your sent mail folder. This digital “paper trail” can then be consulted in the future if any related issues ever surface.
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