Near Misses Events Don't Have Anything Bad Happen, Right?
The main thing separating near misses events from full blown incidents is that no one was injured, and no property was damaged. But let's really look at things. For example, a forklift operator was carrying a pallet of metal parts. The operator hit a small bump, and some of the unsecured parts fell off the pallet. The operator stops, puts the forklift in a safe position, and assesses things. It turns out that the parts weren't damaged, and no one got hurt. So, no harm and no foul, right? Well, the parts were heavy, and one of them skidded far enough and fast enough that if someone was nearby, they could have been hurt. It was also possible that the parts or other equipment could have been damaged.
In this particular instance, the only things that probably need to be done are to pick up the parts, put them back on the pallet, secure them, finish the transport, and then report the incident. A way to prevent this from happening in the future is to secure the parts so that they can shift on the pallet but not go anywhere. It also would be good to see if the bump in the travel way can be smoothed out and kept that way.
Let's Look at a More Costly Near Misses Event
Now, in this scenario, you have an industrial forklift operator that was out in a yard getting raw materials. The operator thought they saw a shorter way to navigate the yard and took it. Unfortunately for them, this was not part of the roadway and was in fact a ditch. When the operator entered, the lift almost fell over on its side. The operator was able to keep this from happening by correcting it. But now the lift is stuck in the soft storm water ditch soil. The lift is not coming out.
When the operator called for help, it was determined that there wasn't sufficient equipment onsite to get the lift out. And the lift would not come out on its own. So, a wrecker was called to pull it out. It took around an hour for help to arrive and it cost the company about $500 to get the lift pulled out. So, there is the loss of the money to retrieve the forklift, and there is the loss of productive time for the use of the lift. And yet nothing was broken, and no one was hurt.
Other near misses events come to mind. But the moral of the story is that near misses events can cost you money directly and indirectly in lost productivity. And these are events in which you were "lucky". How much worse would it be if you had the added costs of injured employees and/or damaged property?
Treat Near Misses Events with Respect
The way I see it, near misses events are a valuable tool to let you know that there are some potentially very costly issues you have in your processes. I gave some examples of how near misses events might cost you money. I didn't mention the time in doing the reporting, detailed incident investigation, root cause analysis, and corrective and preventive actions. That sounds like a lot of work, doesn't it?
That's why you need to treat each event with the seriousness it deserves.
Every event should come with a detailed evaluation and action such that it isn't likely to happen again. This should not be merely an exercise in paperwork. I don't generally like to waste money. I'm figuring that you don't either. Good places to look for underlying issues would be your behavior observations and inspections. You might find that some of the contributing factors, or even root causes, may have already been identified in them. Check to see if there are any corrective and preventive actions listed. Have they been carried out? Are they heavy on fixing the "here and now" portion of the problem and light on the "preventing it from happening again" portion? If so, that might be at least part of reason you had the near misses event.
As with every accident and incident event, the point is to get to the root of the problem, fix the problem, and keep it from happening again. Failure to do so can have serious consequences. And you just might not be so lucky the next time a similar event decides to show its ugly head. As a similar saying goes, a little bit of prevention can be worth a lot of a cure. If you're a business, and you want to be successful, can you really afford not to take care of issues while they are small and manageable?