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Do They Live at Your Workplace Too?

-Carola Mittag

“I don’t know” and “Not me”.

When my sons were growing up, they did things they were not supposed to just as children do. Sometimes something broke accidentally or someone was injured because of a silly or intentional action. And, as is human nature, when confronted with the usual questions, “how did that happen?, why did you do that?, who broke the…?” etc. etc., the usual answer was “I don’t know” and “not me”.

Notice that I said “as is human nature” not as is only in children’s nature. We all have a propensity to want to deny responsibility or blame for things that go wrong. As we get older and accept accountability and responsibility, the first inclination to deny remains strong; however, the human struggle becomes a push and pull between self-preservation and a guilty conscience.

In the workplace, near misses should be considered highly valuable lessons for identifying potentially unsafe practices and equipment. The key to using near-misses to improve overall safety is ensuring incidents are reported quickly and consistently.

10 Reasons Workers Don’t Report Near-Misses

1) Fear

Workers think they’ll get in trouble for almost having an accident.

How to tackle it: Instill a culture that prioritizes safety and concern for workers’ health. Make sure workers feel comfortable pointing out flaws, whether it’s their own or within the workplace.

2) It’s embarrassing

Workers don’t want to be called on to explain their embarrassing accident.

How to tackle it: Use an anonymous reporting procedure to collect close call data. Encourage a workplace that values safety reporting and praise workers who do come forward and share their near-misses.

3) Not recognized as a near-miss

Employees may not even realize that an accident almost occurred; or, near-misses become so commonplace on the job that they’re perceived as a normal part of everyday work life.

How to tackle it: No one wants to sit through yet another safety seminar, but it’s important for all employees to recognize potentially dangerous situations … even the smallest ones. Consider bringing in an expert to remind the team about seemingly insignificant safety issues, or just hold an informal (and paid) workshop where team members take an active role by brainstorming near-miss situations and how to avoid them.

4) Reporting isn’t easy enough

Workers think that the process to report a near-miss has too many steps, is too time-consuming or is otherwise too complex.

How to tackle it: Use a short form to collect only the most essential information regarding the near-miss. Make the form available through means that your workers will use—whether that’s a paper form or an online form that they fill in at home or on the go.

5) Workers don’t know how

There’s a reporting system in place, but no instruction is provided on when or how to report near-misses.

How to tackle it: When you introduce your system, or when you realize no one is turning in any reports, have a training session to show them how the reporting system works. Show them where to go, to whom to speak and what to do. They won’t know unless they are shown.

6) Loss of reputation

By owning up to a near-miss, workers may feel that others will see them as weak or accident-prone.

How to tackle it: Spend a good amount of time praising those who speak up or follow the right safety practices. Use trusted, influential co-workers to spread the word that reporting close calls is always a good thing. Once enough positive vibes seep into company culture, workers won’t feel as worried about their reputation.

7) Workers are pressured to keep quiet

If reporting a near-miss affects safety statistics that are tied to bonuses, employees almost definitely won’t want to report them.

How to tackle it: Segregate your safety statistics by accidents and near-misses, and tie bonuses only to accident rate. You’ll still be able to see overall safety stats, but your workers’ bonuses won’t be affected by sharing opportunities for improvement.

8) Not worth the trouble:

Once a report is made, nothing is done to address or correct the cause of the near-miss; or, no follow-up is communicated with the workers to let them know that something was done to prevent related future accidents.

How to tackle it: Always, always take near-miss reports seriously! Read them, document them and investigate causes and potential effects. Develop a solution, and bring the entire assessment to a team meeting to discuss the event along with suggestions for how to avoid future accidents.

9) No employee motivation

Workers aren’t interested in reporting near misses.

How to tackle it: If your workers feel comfortable giving their names when reporting close calls, praise them at the next team meeting or provide a small bonus for their help in making the workplace safer. Whatever you do, make sure reported events are positively recognized.

10) There’s no system for reporting

Unfortunately, this is very much the case in too many workplaces. Many workers find themselves with suggestions for safety improvements, but don’t know of any “suggestion box” available for submitting recommendations.

How to tackle it: Make a near-miss report form and a physical place to submit completed forms. Then, make everyone aware of the system. Let them know that it’s their opportunity to suggest improvements and that all suggestions are welcome. The potential to avoid accidents is more than worth it.

Let your workplace be the one in which “I don’t know” and Not me” don’t reside. Ensure that all workers are comfortable in reporting near misses so that they don’t need to face the struggle between self-preservation and guilt should an accident happen.


On July 1, 2021, O. Reg. 420/21Notices and Reports under Sections 51 to 53.1 of the Act – Fatalities, Critical Injuries, Occupational Illnesses and Other Incidents (the “Regulation”), under the Ontario Occupational Health and Safety Act (“OHSA”) came into force.



Watch for next month’s Blog published in the first week of August.


Carola Mittag

Consultant and Editor for Mentor Safety Consultants Inc.