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What are near misses?

An accident waiting to happen

A near miss is an incident where no personal injury was sustained, but where, given a slight shift in time or position, damage and/or an injury easily could have occurred.

Some examples of near misses include:

  • A worker tripping over an object on the floor but catching his fall by grabbing onto a table.
  • One worker opens a door almost hitting another worker but she backs up before the door hits her.
  • A worker loses his balance while standing on a stack of boxes to change a light bulb but lands on his feet.

When events like this happen in the workplace it is easy to just shake if off and get back to work. Never shrug off a near miss because that is the opportunity for corrective action before a
serious injury occurs.

Most accidents can be predicted by near misses. Think of near misses as a red flag or a wake up call that something is wrong and requires immediate attention. You should investigate the incident as you would a real accident. Find out what happened and why. Interview employees and talk to witnesses. You need to know what is going on because you can bet there will be a next time. Find out if it was a result of an unsafe condition or an unsafe behavior on the part of the employee. Which procedures were being followed or not followed?

Report the incident. Management needs to be aware of the hazard. Provide all the facts; when, where, why, how and who and provide an analysis of the situation. This should create a opportunity for training. Conduct a safety meeting after a near miss incident to discuss any safety issues.

The end result of a near miss may be to eliminate the safety hazard, establish a new procedure and/or to just heighten awareness of the workplace risks.

The biggest challenge is getting employees to report the near misses so the corrective action can be taken to prevent injury. Encourage communication and assure employees that they will
not be blamed for incidents.


  • A near miss incident is an accident waiting to happen.
  • Never shrug off a near miss because you can bet next time it will result in an accident.
  • Report a near miss incident like you would an accident.
  • Investigate a near miss and conduct a safety meeting to address any safety issues and provide training.