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What Organizations Can Do to Encourage Incident and Near-Miss Reporting

Gerry Dumke
Posted on: September 27, 2019 by Gerry Dumke

Workplace safety is the cornerstone of risk management in the modern business world. Implementing a safety-oriented culture across all operations supplements workers’ compensation insurance and liability insurance policies in terms of managing workplace risks. Even more importantly, workplace safety helps to significantly reduce insurance claims, thereby lowering overhead expenses. In today’s workplace, incident reporting – even the reporting of near-misses — serves as a means of protecting business assets and employees alike. Organizations have numerous options when it comes to encouraging this form of safety reporting, which is a critical component in any workplace safety strategy.

Safety First: Fundamentals of a Safety-Oriented Workplace Culture

Study after study has demonstrated the value of workplace safety. A safe workplace offers many benefits to employers, keeping productivity levels high while managing overhead expenses efficiently. How can employers implement safety programs that build a safe and efficient work culture? The process begins with the creation of workplace safety guidelines, which often include:

  • Job safety procedures for specific tasks and equipment use.
  • Hazard assessments of the workplace to identify potential risks in and around work areas.
  • Emergency preparedness details, such as what to do in case of on-site emergencies and the personnel responsible for managing emergency. 
  • Company/workplace safety rules and standards.
  • Adequate and robust workers’ compensation coverage. 
  • Training and retraining programs for new hires and established workers.
  • Workplace incident reporting guidelines, including regulatory recordkeeping standards as well as how and when to report incidents (both injury-producing and near-misses).

It is this latter aspect that often confuses employers and staff; why should near-miss incidents be reported? These “almost incidents” need focus in reporting because they can play a significant role in preventing future incidents that may lead to serious injury. In other words, a near-miss is an incident that points to a potential hazard, and smart employers use reporting of near-misses as an opportunity for safety and process improvement. 

Encouraging Incident Reporting

Reporting on-the-job injuries and similar incidents is an important part of a safe workplace. Not only can reporting incidents and near-misses protect employees, creating and maintaining incident records may also be required by regulatory agencies like the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). To help employers make incident reporting more effective, OSHA has released worker participation guidelines. In simple terms, incident reporting is only effective if all workers buy into the process. When employees take workplace safety seriously, they are more likely to participate in safety-oriented programs, including incident reporting.

Tips for encouraging incident and near-miss reporting include:

  • Make the reporting process as easy as possible – reporting should be accessible and quick. Employers can use written reports or electronic reporting tools to improve the speed and accessibility for employees.
  • Give employees the option of anonymous incident reporting – after incidents occur, many employees may fear reprisals and blame for the incident. This can discourage the reporting of incidents. Instead, employers may opt to allow anonymous reporting tools.
  • Make it clear that employees will not lose their jobs if they report incidents promptly and accurately. Workplace safety depends on having as many employees participate as possible; reporting incidents is important, but employees should not fear the loss of their jobs for doing so.
  • Address problems and risk factors promptly – employers should take the steps needed to correct hazardous conditions as soon as they are reported, including near-miss incidents. By doing so, employees can see that their concerns are being addressed by management.
  • Seek input from employees – employees are at the front lines of daily operations, and as such may know of hazards and risks that can lead to workplace injuries. Give employees an active voice in reporting these factors, letting them know their input is valued.

Reporting of incidents is the key to being proactive in risk management. With the above tips, employers can streamline the reporting process, making it more effective and efficient. Injury incidents and near-misses serve as a valuable learning tool for employers, helping to reduce potential risk factors and keeping workers’ compensation insurance claims in line with industry rates. It is no secret that by reducing the instances of workplace injuries, employers can be more cost-effective, protecting employees while reducing lost productivity levels. 

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Posted in: blog Workers Comp Workers Compensation