March 23 is Near Miss Day, commemorating this date in 1989 when an asteroid about the size of a mountain came very close to colliding with the Earth. But asteroids aren’t the only near misses that we should be thinking about. Being shocked but not injured by machinery, a tool falling near you but not hitting you, tripping over a messy work zone but not falling, dropping a heavy object but watching as it misses your toes by a centimeter. Near misses happen all the time, but they shouldn’t, and they should not be ignored.
By definition, a “near miss” is an unplanned incident/event that did not result in injury, illness, or damage, but had the potential to do so. Meaning, next time you may not be so lucky.
Two Main Causes of Near Misses
Two main causes of near misses are unsafe acts, and unsafe conditions. Unsafe acts include improper lifting, walking under an overhead load, not using proper personal protective equipment, or risky behavior. Unsafe conditions include poorly maintained equipment, oil or grease on floors, poor lighting, welding leads laid in walkways, or trash and boxes left in hallways. Unsafe acts are completely in your control. Follow all rules and safety protocols, don’t take risks. Unsafe conditions may be out of your control sometimes, but you can usually take an active role in making your environment safer. For example, if you see a safety problem, bring it to the attention of your manager, company, safety department, and coworkers so that it can be remedied before a near miss happens.
While near miss incidents are mostly caused by human error, your company should examine faulty processes or systems when they occur. For this reason, near misses provide opportunities to prevent injuries from occurring the next time the situation arises. Failing to report a near miss puts everyone in danger in the future, while reporting one enables everyone to ensure safer conditions moving forward. CED wants to remind you that no one is ever disciplined for reporting one.
On this Near Miss Day, think about a near miss that you experienced lately, and what can be done to prevent it going forward. Now, let’s all take a moment and be glad that we missed that asteroid!