What Is a Near Miss? (Including Types and Report Examples)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 16 November 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Many organisations prioritise their employees' health and safety by conducting frequent risk assessments to identify and reduce hazards. In addition to these assessments, reporting near accidents is another essential activity for improving safety measures in the workplace. If you're in charge of reporting near accidents, learning more about the various types and reviewing some example reports can be valuable. In this article, we define what a near miss is, list the types you may encounter in your workplace and provide some examples of reports that you can reference when writing your own.

What is a near miss?

A near miss, or near accident, is an unplanned event occurring in the workplace that has the potential to cause harm but doesn't result in actual human injury, property and equipment damage or regular operations disruption. The main purpose of reporting these occurrences is to remove hazards and introduce preventative measures. Many organisations also use such events as an opportunity to review safety policies and procedures with their employees. You can use the definitions below as reference to help you determine whether an event is a near accident:

  • Near miss: This is an event that almost results in collateral damage. For instance, a restaurant employee drops a bowl of hot soup, but no injury or damage occurs.

  • Incident: This type of event results in mild-to-moderate collateral damage. For instance, the employee burns their finger slightly when dropping the bowl of hot soup but doesn't require emergency medical attention.

  • Accident: This is an event that results in serious collateral damage. In this instance, the employee suffers a third-degree burn from the spilled soup splashing on them and requires emergency medical attention.

Related: What Is the Incident Management Process? (Including Steps)

Types of near misses

Here are the various categories of near accidents you can encounter in the workplace:

Near accidents from slipping, tripping or falling

This type of near accident can occur when an employee:

  • trips or slips on condensation or a puddle

  • trips over an unmarked or shallow step

  • trips when navigating through an area that has a clutter of items, such as packaging materials

  • trips or falls while attempting to climb a shaky ladder without sustaining injuries

  • trips or falls while walking in a dimly lit workplace area without suffering any injuries

Related: What Does a Safety Inspector Do? (With Tips and Skills)

Near accidents due to risky behaviour

This type of near accident can occur when an employee:

  • attempts to jump down from a high platform and either falls or doesn't land properly

  • attempts to handle extremely hot or cold objects without adequate protection

  • attempts to perform dangerous work, such as construction, without proper harnesses and headgear

  • attempts to continue working despite feeling unwell and eventually collapses without injury

  • is playing, either alone or with a fellow employee, in a high-risk area and nearly injures themselves or puts another person at risk

Related: HAZOP: Definition, Importance and Steps for Implementation

Near accidents due to the immediate environment

This type of near accident can occur when an employee:

  • gets a limb caught between some materials, such as a pallet, without sustaining injuries

  • gets their clothing caught in a machine

  • finds a live and exposed electrical cord lying in a pool of water

  • steps away from a falling object just in time

  • works in an area with hazardous fumes without adequate protection

Related: What Is Risk Assessment and Why Is It Important?

Near accidents from working at heights

This type of near accident can occur when an employee:

  • stumbles while working on a roof or other elevated positions

  • discovers errors in the fall protection system

  • attempts to throw an object to a colleague when both are high above the ground, causing the colleague to lose their balance

  • leans on an unsecured panel and slips or falls, but their protective gear prevents any injuries from occurring

  • ascends poorly maintained or shaky scaffolding

Related: A Guide to the Risk Management Framework (With Examples)

Near accidents from signage-related factors

This type of near accident can occur when an employee:

  • walks through an area that's under construction because of inadequate signage

  • drives and almost collides with another vehicle due to road signs' low visibility

  • comes into contact with possibly harmful substances because of incorrect labelling on the container, but no injury occurs

  • touches a surface that's extremely hot because of a faulty indicator light

  • performs, or is about to perform, electrical work on a piece of equipment that requires electrical lockout, but a colleague prevents them from doing so and informs them that the signage is missing

Near accidents during equipment operation

This type of near accident can occur when an employee:

  • operates heavy machinery, such as a trencher, without first making sure that the surrounding area is clear of objects or people

  • operates heavy machinery in a construction site that causes a trench's walls to collapse without harming anyone

  • attempts to resolve a technical issue without first turning the machine's power off

  • operates heavy machinery and nearly hits someone

  • stands near a piece of poorly maintained equipment that suddenly sparks

4 examples of near miss reports

Here are four sample reports for common occurrences that you can reference when preparing your own reports:

Example 1: Accidents from slipping, tripping and falling

When reporting slips, trips and falls, be sure to include the near accident's location. If the cause is a puddle, identify where it came from and mention it in your report. If the person suffered a fall, indicate whether they sustained any injuries and describe their severity.

Example: Stephen Lam slipped on a wet floor and fell while walking down Aisle 11 in Warehouse A. After investigation, we identified the cause of the wet floor to be a leaking overhead pipe. There were no injuries, although Stephen almost hit his head on the nearby edge of a pallet rack.

Example 2: Near accidents due to risky behaviour

Since risky behaviour can vary greatly depending on the nature of the job, be sure to include as much role-specific information as you can. For example, if the near accident relates to an employee not wearing the appropriate gear when performing a task or entering a danger zone, indicate this in your report. If the near accident involves someone continuing to work despite feeling unwell, describe their symptoms.

Example: This afternoon, Ray Lee wanted to go back onto the rooftop of the Zenith 15 condominium project without his harness. His reason for doing so was to retrieve his shingle tear-off tool. He didn't inform anybody and was planning to go up by himself without protective gear, but I happened to walk by and stopped him.

Example 3: Near accidents due to the immediate environment

Since these kinds of near accidents sometimes occur due to employee neglect while performing their duties, be sure to mention such instances where relevant. For example, if you're describing a situation involving hazardous fumes, indicate clearly whether it's normal for the fumes to be there or whether an unsafe practice caused them. If you're describing a near accident involving machinery, describe what type of machinery it is, how the employee almost injured themselves and what unsafe practice caused the event.

Example: This morning, a concrete cart fell off the seventh floor at the Hodge Street project and almost hit Nadia Ali. A foreman had placed the cart near a slope before going for a break. According to an eyewitness, it began rolling down and building momentum until it tumbled over the platform. Luckily, Nadia was wearing her safety helmet and managed to step away in time.

Example 4: Near accidents from working at heights

Falls from a height are one of the major causes of work-related injuries and fatalities, especially in construction. If the cause of the near accident you're reporting has to do with a lack of protective gear, specify what was missing and why. If there was an intervention, describe this as well.

Example: While working on one of the rooftops of the Sunview Estate project, I spotted a contractor attempting to pass a roofing hammer to another contractor by tossing it. The toss didn't happen because I called to them and asked them to come down so I could brief them on the correct procedure. This near accident occurred because the contractor who wanted to toss the hammer was a new hire who hadn't yet completed the company's safety training seminar.

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