Near-miss reporting reduces work-related mishaps
643rd Regional Support Group
Prior to my current position as a safety and occupational health specialist with the Army Reserve Command in Columbus, Ohio, I served as the voluntary protection program/safety program manager for the 309th Aircraft Maintenance Group at Hill Air Force Base, Utah. As part of my duties, I managed the group safety SharePoint, where our Airmen, DoD employees and imbedded contractors could report near-misses and other safety concerns in their work areas. With the cooperation of management, we were able to foster a culture where our personnel could report these items without fear of reprisal. In fact, they were rewarded for taking the time to help make their work areas safer for everyone involved.
The system was set up so I would receive an email notification whenever a new submittal was placed onto the SharePoint. Each squadron within the group also had a VPP/safety representative that received these notifications. I ensured a response was sent to whomever submitted the near-miss within 48 hours as to what the plan was to mitigate or eliminate the hazard. Every morning I met with the group’s deputy director, safety personnel and union representative. The first topic of this meeting was discussing newly submitted near-misses and putting together a plan to mitigate/eliminate them. We then put the plan into action.
We ensured no near-miss submittal was treated as frivolous and never took the position that it wasn’t our responsibility to handle them. Our team of safety professionals acted as the middlemen to ensure our workforce was happy and the workplace safe. We didn’t care if it was as simple as a burned-out light bulb. Our team made the necessary notifications to resolve every near-miss reported to us. We followed-up on each one from cradle to grave and ensured the person that submitted the near-miss was notified along the way. By taking this approach, we were able to prove to the workforce and management that we were not taking a “black hat” (compliance only) approach to safety, but as fellow employees taking an active role to reduce mishaps in the workplace.
So did this approach produce results? Absolutely! We gained the trust of the workforce and management. They actively sought assistance from our office and approached us on a regular basis to offer their own ideas for new personal protective equipment, ergonomic issues, etc., to make the workplace more user friendly. The biggest result, however, was the reduction of mishap rates throughout the group. Being an aircraft depot facility, our mishaps were through the roof prior to adopting this approach. Within a couple of years of putting the emphasis on near-miss reporting, we were able to have a substantial drop in mishaps and maintain our Total Recordable Incident Rate and Days Away Restricted or Transferred rates below industry standards.
This approach to reducing work-related mishaps is not just for the Air Force. As a safety professional, you can put it into practice in any work environment. Be proactive, get out from behind the desk and mingle with the Soldiers and civilian employees. Gain their trust and they will welcome your presence when they see you in their work areas. They know their hazards and needs and would love to openly discuss them with you. Safety is much more than compliance or reacting after a mishap has taken place. Near-miss reporting can be the key to mishap prevention and create a culture of safety.