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By: Ron Parker STS, CHST 

A near miss is described as an unplanned event that did not result in injury, illness or damage, but had the potential to do so.  Have you ever ignored a near miss?  Do you breathe a sigh of relief and mumble under your breath “good luck”?  Remember the difference between a near miss and an accident could be a second or an inch.  A near miss should be a warning to you and should not be ignored.  A thorough investigation should be done to determine the cause.  It could prevent an accident where equipment could be damaged, someone could be injured or someone could be killed.  Have you ever heard the assumption, first aid, first aid, near miss and then accident?  This is not a proven fact but could be a thought process for you to follow.

Near misses are very serious incidents and cannot be discounted.  A recent study shows that for every 330 incidents, 300 produce no injuries, 29 produce minor injuries and one produces major injuries or even death.  Of course, these statistics vary with the tasks being performed.

Unsafe working conditions, unsafe employee work habits, improper use of equipment or use of malfunctioning equipment have the potential to cause work related injuries.  All of these can be put in the category of a near miss and should be corrected immediately.  Even though there is an emphasis put on a Safety Professional in the title of this article it is everyone’s responsibility to report and/ or correct these situations.

An example of a near miss:  Suppose you are walking close to a scaffold where brick masons are laying brick.  You see a brick fall, and hear no warning shout.  You or someone else could have been hit by the brick. 

An investigation should reveal why the brick fell.  Was it mishandled?  Was it kicked loose?  Was a toe board missing?  After determining the reason, a solution should be recommended to the group of brick masons.

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