The Life-saving Near Miss

I have a 10-year-old beagle who, in classic beagle fashion, is principally guided by her sense of smell and instinct for the hunt. Once in puppyhood, she slipped her leash during a walk to bound across a busy four-lane road in pursuit of a squirrel. She survived, unscathed, thanks to the swift reactions of several drivers. But, the near miss led to immediate changes, including a tighter harness, additional training and the introduction of treats during all walks.

I imagine most people have hundreds of stories of near misses big and small that served as a catalyst for change in their own lives. Perhaps a new bath mat purchased after a slip in the shower; a fragile centerpiece moved onto a shelf after a toddler grabbed for it; a blind turn taken more slowly after a near run-in with a cyclist.

Individuals can react quickly to near misses and make a change that will help avoid accident and potential injury. However, the same can’t always be said for near misses in the workplace.

Companies meticulously track workplace accidents and injuries, noting when and how they occur, and instituting policy changes to help avoid future incidents. Few companies, however, bring that careful tracking and policy modification to the accidents and injuries that nearly happened, but didn’t. Consider the number of fully loaded glass racks that have almost tipped, the forklifts that barely escaped collision, or the workers who nearly fell after a slip or trip. Each incident could have easily been an accident, an injury or, worse, a fatality.

Tracking near misses can be a powerful tool in identifying how an accident or injury could happen at the workplace. It guides employers in making necessary changes in policies or procedures, helps managers identify risks and hazards around the jobsite or factory floor, and educates employees on dangerous situations and how to avoid them, all before an accident occurs and anyone is hurt.

The upcoming December issue of Glass Magazine is focused on improving worker safety, offering information on everything from tracking near misses to managing personal protective equipment and machine safety requirements.   

Katy Devlin is editor of Glass Magazine. Contact her at kdevlin@glass.org.

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