Near-Miss Incident Reporting – It’s About Trust

Last year I was a speaker at the Indiana Governor’s Safety Conference in Indianapolis.  I always enjoy being a part of these events because I inevitably meet good people and walk away with useful nuggets of information.  One of the many I found at this Conference was really golden and was given to me at lunch that Wednesday.

Like many safety professionals, I’ve been focusing on the power of Near-miss Incident Reporting initiatives and the positive results reported.  After taking a phone call, I arrived for the Governor’s Award Luncheon a bit late and was seated at a table near the back of the hall. There were two others at the table, we were able to easily chat while eating. One of the others noticed my “speaker” ribbon on my badge and asked about my talk. I told him it was on “100 Years of Safety” and the upcoming ASSE 100th Anniversary celebration and gave a brief recap. I then asked him if he is in safety, to which he replied, “Yes and no”.

His name was Robert and he is the operations manager for an electric components manufacturer’s distribution center. Since he’s in-charge, “Yes he is in safety, but No he’s not a pro at it.” When I asked him about his safety efforts and how it is going, he shared that he’s trying to build trust in safety through a “near-miss” reporting system!  I just about fell out of my chair.  After I told him of my interest in the subject, Robert detailed how it works.

More than anything this operations manager is trying to create a Just and Open culture whereby everyone shares and contributes in a responsible manner. At first, when training was completed and the reporting system was rolled out, he had to deal with some hurt feelings and some “tattle-tale” responses. But once the workers saw that the reporting process didn’t carry any penalties and that safety concerns were corrected without delay, they became believers and participated actively.

Ten months into the “near-miss” reporting process, safety in this material handling intensive DC is greatly improved and a real TEAM atmosphere has evolved. As would be the case, there were many forklift operator and ergonomics related near-misses. One by one they’ve been identified and the TEAM is working to reduce the risk and eliminate hazards.

We finished our lunch, applauded the Governor’s Award recipients and then parted ways with Robert saying, “It’s great having 40 safety coaches teaching each other about safety!” Oh, and he had a great big smile on his face!

It was really great for me to have a conversation with a facility operations manager who really understands the power of creating a learning organization. Way to go Robert!

Please comment and share your Near-Miss Reporting or Learning Organization stories. Thanks.