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Near Misses Are Accidents Waiting to Happen

I often hear that “No-one gets hurt in a ‘near miss’” but it can be an accident waiting to happen. You have a robust health and safety policy. Great! But occasionally accidents still happen. A good way to make further improvements to your health and safety record is to focus on eliminating ‘near misses’ as much as possible.


Spotless Commercial Cleaning employs a work force of over 1,000 commercial cleaners and managers so we have a Spotless App which makes it easy to report near misses. Our Helpdesk is responsible for collating data from our app and completing spreadsheets on accidents and near misses.


What is a ‘near miss’?

‘Near misses’ are minor hazards in your workplace which are currently not causing any harm but can result in serious accidents.

Examples of near miss hazards are faulty bannisters, live copper wires, trip hazards like cables running across floors and abandoned tools, badly placed metal barriers or taps with boiling water for making coffee and tea.

Figures from the HSE (Health and Safety Executive 1997) show that 1 major accident and 7 minor accidents result from 189 hazards and near misses (ie HDNM = Hazards, Property Damage, and Near Misses). Other statistics suggest that for every accident there are approximately ninety near misses.


1 major accident : 7 minor accidents : 189 hazards and near misses


The goal is to learn the lesson once, at a near miss level, then implement appropriate controls to prevent similar potential accidents happening again.

The HSE recommend that: “As part of your monitoring the risks in your workplace, you should investigate incidents to ensure that corrective action is taken, learning is shared and any necessary improvements are put in place.”

How to encourage the reporting of near misses


In practice, it can be difficult to get staff to report near misses or minor slip accidents; reporting takes time when you’re busy and it can be seen as funny or fussy (until someone gets hurt!). So, it is important to create the right culture and give ownership to employees so that near misses and minor hazards are reported.

As HSE states: “A simple, and potentially anonymous, system for reporting near miss incidents is a very important way of identifying problem areas. This will help you highlight some of the less obvious hazards in a workplace, or identify areas where a problem is developing.”

So, having a good reporting system, ensures that the hazard can be dealt with before someone gets injured.

A case study: big benefits of eliminating near misses

A responsible manufacture, Britvic Soft Drinks, set out on a quest to have zero accidents, so, over a several years, they:

These conventional health & safety programmes significantly reduced but did not eliminate accidents, so they decided to do something more creative.

Near miss incidents were taking place, but these were not being captured and documented very well. Therefore, they decided to inject some new life into their near miss reporting.

A special QSE Day (Quality Safety Environment) was convened, and a Near Miss reporting system was rolled out. To ensure genuine buy-in from employees, Near Miss Workshops were run. Employees were given pre-printed books, small enough to fit their pockets.

The slips were completed by employees when they found near misses. These were then collected by the Health & Safety Champions and transferred into a database. The data is transferred into spreadsheets for analysis and graphing.

As a result, Britvic improved their accident stats to 0 major accidents and 5 minor accidents, compared to 1,088 hazards and near misses.

Other near miss tips

To help make it easy for employees to submit near misses, consider allowing them to report near misses anonymously. Employee participation in any near miss programme is vital.

The success of near miss programmes is dependent on the support of employees at all levels. Management need to demonstrate that they are serious and must work hard to communicate the value of near misses.

Collecting near miss reports helps create a culture that seeks to identify and control hazards which will reduce risks.

Obligatory quotas for near misses are not a good idea, as, once a quota has been filled, more dangerous near misses may not be picked up.

You can encourage near miss reporting by offering incentives to workers who report hazards.

Spotless Commercial Cleaning is an approved Safe Contractor, is Contractor Plus accredited and has a rigorous Health & Safety policy.