News & Information Blog

Near Miss - Leading or Lagging Indicator

By Susen Trail | 04/19/2021

The 2015 National Safety Survey, conducted by the magazine Environmental Health and Safety, showed that more than 80% of companies in the survey track near misses as a metric of their safety culture.  It is very important to identify near misses and to prevent a recurrence with more serious consequences.

Recently, our team at Simple Safety Coach discussed how to classify a near miss investigation.  Should it be addressed in our Safety Observation investigation application which is intended to be used for Prevention?  Or should the investigation into a near miss be conducted as an Accident Investigation application? 

This is important because our software is designed to maximize every scrap of data you provide into charts and graphs that display how effective your safety actions have been over time.

Leading indicators measure positive activities that promote safety and reduce or prevent unsafe conditions.  Such indicators can be used for effective problem solving as well as to create the road map for continuous improvement of your safety culture.  It is important that the metrics provide for advanced warning of potential problems in order to allow for prevention of occurrence rather than prevention of recurrence.

A near miss is an unsafe condition that had not previously been identified and/or controlled.  My argument is that it should be investigated via the Accident investigation software because, like an accident, it is something that has already happened.  The only reason it did not result in damage to an employee or property was luck.  Luck is not a method of prevention. 

Employees know you squeaked by on luck alone and the pressure is on to do something and do it right now.  This is the same type of reactive pressure your business would have when responding to an actual incident.  By moving identification and remediation of occupational hazards far upstream of even a near miss, you will have more time to find the most effective and efficient method to abate the hazard. 

Why is this so important to Simple Safety Coach?  Our software is designed so that Safety Observations are leading indicators of the state of your Safety Culture.  We want to Coach you into positive, prevention, actions.  If we set the reactive activities into one investigative venue and the preventive activities into another, your key performance indices will be organized into proactive and reactive safety activities. 

Our Safety Observation investigation data is clearly pro-active, based on an organizational imperative to protect employees and property.  Our Accident investigation data demonstrates a failure to control hazards.  A near miss is clearly caused by a failure to control one or more hazards, therefore, it belongs in Accident investigation.

What you track and how you categorize and use the data is similar to the old adage: "you are what you eat".  Tracking lagging data forces you to look at where you’ve been.  While this data is valid information and must be recorded, the best bang for your buck is to track your progress towards where you want to be!

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