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How Often Do Near Misses Go Unreported?

How Often Do Near Misses Go Unreported?


Have you ever narrowly avoided a mishap at work? Maybe you almost tripped over a misplaced cord, or a falling object whizzed past your head. These close calls, known as near misses, are a reality in many workplaces. But here's the surprising truth: a significant number of these incidents go unreported.

This lack of reporting creates a blind spot in workplace safety. By ignoring near misses, we miss opportunities to identify and address potential hazards before they lead to serious accidents.

This blog delves into the world of unreported near misses. We'll explore the reasons why employees might hesitate to report them, the consequences of this under-reporting, and most importantly, strategies to create a culture of safety where near misses are seen as valuable tools for preventing accidents and saving lives.

Falling boxes in warehouse

The Problem of Under-reporting Near Misses

While near misses serve as valuable warning signs, a concerning reality is that many go unreported. This under-reporting creates a significant obstacle in achieving optimal workplace safety. Here's why employees might hesitate to report close calls:

  • Fear of Repercussions:  A common concern is the possibility of disciplinary action or blame being placed on them for the near miss. This fear can be particularly strong if a culture of punishment exists within the workplace.
  • Self-Blame:  Employees might blame themselves for the incident, feeling embarrassed or ashamed for their role in the near miss. This can discourage them from reporting, fearing judgment from colleagues or superiors.

  • Lack of Awareness:  Sometimes, employees might not even recognize a situation as a near miss.  They might simply view it as a minor inconvenience or "part of the job" and not grasp the potential severity it represents.
  • Inconvenient Reporting Processes:  Cumbersome reporting procedures can further discourage employees. Lengthy forms, complex reporting structures, or unclear guidelines can make the process time-consuming and frustrating.

The consequences of this under-reporting are far-reaching. Unreported near misses leave potential hazards unaddressed, creating a ticking time bomb for more serious accidents. We miss crucial opportunities to learn from these close calls and implement preventive measures before an incident escalates.

Pointing fingers - blame

What Percentage of Near Misses go Unreported?

Since unreported near misses are not documented, it's impossible to accurately measure their exact percentage. However, some industry estimates and research offer insights:

  • Near Miss Accident Theory: This theory suggests for every one major accident, there are 10 times as many lost-time injuries, 30 times as many property losses, and 600 times as many near misses https://www.proxxi.co/blog/voltage-case-study-fieldcore. This implies a significant portion of near misses go unreported - 600 to every 1 major accident that occurs.
  • Surveys: A survey by Accident Advice Helpline found that 1 in 6 workers surveyed wouldn't report a workplace hazard, suggesting a reluctance to report even potential risks, not just near misses https://www.napthens.co.uk/news/business-update/.
  • National Safety Council: The National Safety Council's Journal of Safety Research found that over 25% of workers surveyed did not report an injury they sustained themselves https://www.nsc.org/community-safety/safety-topics, highlighting the general under-reporting of workplace incidents.

Strategies for Encouraging Reporting of Near Misses:

Turning the tide on under-reported near misses requires a multi-pronged approach. Here are some key strategies to foster a culture of open communication and encourage employees to report close calls:

  • Bypass the need for reporting: Modern safety tech like spacebands wearables record near misses as they occur. Not only does this save time on reporting, but it removes the need for employees needing to make a choice whether to report a near miss or not. Near miss info is synced to an analytics dashboard.
  • Fostering a Culture of Safety: The foundation of encouraging reporting lies in creating a safe space where employees feel comfortable speaking up. This means moving away from a culture of blame and punishment.  Leaders should emphasize that near miss reports are not about finding fault, but about identifying and addressing potential hazards to prevent future incidents.
  • Streamlining Reporting Processes:  Make reporting near misses as easy and accessible as possible. Implement user-friendly digital platforms or provide easily accessible paper forms.  Consider offering anonymous reporting options for employees who feel hesitant to disclose their identities.
  • Positive Reinforcement:  Acknowledge and appreciate employees who take the initiative to report near misses. This reinforces the importance of their contribution to workplace safety.  Public recognition (with the employee's consent) or small rewards can further incentivize reporting.
  • Transparency and Communication:  Regularly communicate the value of near miss reporting and how the collected data is used to improve safety protocols.  Share success stories of how reported near misses led to the identification and mitigation of potential hazards.

By implementing these strategies, workplaces can create an environment where employees feel empowered to report near misses without fear. This open communication fosters a proactive approach to safety, ultimately leading to a safer work environment for everyone.

spacebands wearable solution
spacebands wearables automatically capture near miss information and sync it to the analytics dashboard

Benefits of Addressing Under-reporting Near Misses:

Tackling under-reported near misses isn't just about ticking a box - it unlocks a multitude of benefits that directly impact workplace safety and well-being. Here's how addressing under-reporting can transform your safety culture:

  • Enhanced Workplace Safety:  Comprehensive near miss reporting allows for proactive identification and mitigation of potential hazards before they cause serious accidents. By analyzing near miss data, you can pinpoint areas of concern, like faulty equipment, unsafe work practices, or environmental factors. This allows for targeted interventions and preventive measures to address these hazards before they escalate.
  • Improved Risk Management:  Near miss data serves as a valuable tool for risk management. By understanding the types and frequency of near misses occurring, you can prioritize risks and allocate resources effectively. This data-driven approach allows for a more strategic and comprehensive approach to workplace safety initiatives.
  • Continuous Improvement:  Treating near misses as valuable learning opportunities fosters a culture of continuous improvement. Analyzing near miss reports helps identify trends and weaknesses in existing safety protocols. This information can be used to refine safety procedures, implement new training programs, and ultimately create a more robust safety management system.
  • Boosted Employee Morale:  When employees see their near miss reports valued and acted upon, it fosters a sense of trust and confidence in the organization's commitment to safety. This active engagement in risk prevention empowers employees and creates a sense of ownership towards maintaining a safe work environment.

By addressing under-reporting, organizations move beyond reactive safety measures to a proactive approach. They create a culture of learning and continuous improvement, ultimately leading to a safer work environment for everyone.

Health & safety training

Case Studies: Near Misses Leading to Serious Accidents

The consequences of ignoring near misses can be devastating. Here are a couple of real-life examples highlighting the importance of reporting close calls:

  • Chemical Plant Explosion:  In a 2012 incident, a chemical plant experienced a near miss when a pressure gauge malfunctioned. Fortunately, a safety system kicked in, preventing a catastrophic explosion. However, the near miss wasn't thoroughly investigated. Months later, another malfunction occurred with the same gauge, this time leading to a massive explosion that injured several workers and caused significant environmental damage. A thorough investigation of the initial near miss could have identified the faulty gauge and prevented the subsequent accident.
  • Construction Site Scaffolding Collapse:  At a construction site, workers narrowly avoided disaster when a section of scaffolding became loose. While the issue was identified and a temporary fix was applied, a formal report wasn't filed. A few days later, the scaffolding fully collapsed, seriously injuring a worker who wasn't expecting such a failure.  Reporting the initial near miss and conducting a proper inspection could have prevented this accident.

These examples illustrate the potential consequences of ignoring near misses. Every close call serves as a warning sign, and a well-functioning near miss reporting system allows workplaces to identify and address potential hazards before they cause serious accidents and injuries.

Safety talk with the team

Expert Opinion: The Value of Near Miss Reporting

Safety professionals and industry leaders widely recognize the crucial role near miss reporting plays in creating a safe work environment. Here are a few key quotes highlighting its importance:

  • "Near misses are a goldmine. They're a tremendous opportunity to identify hazards before someone gets hurt."

    Gretchen Hicks, CSP, ARM, Vice President of Safety for the National Safety Council

    (Source: National Safety Council - Near Miss Reporting)
  • "A strong near miss reporting system is like having an early warning system for potential accidents. By capturing and analyzing near misses, we can proactively identify and address safety issues before they have a chance to cause serious injuries or fatalities."

    Dan Petersen, CSP, President of the American Society of Safety Professionals (ASSP)

    (Source: American Society of Safety Professionals - Near Miss Reporting)
  • "The number one reason why near misses aren't reported is fear of reprisal. We need to create a culture where people feel comfortable reporting these incidents without fear of punishment. Near misses are opportunities to learn and improve, not to point fingers."

    David Michaels, PhD, PE, Professor of Engineering Practice and Occupational Health at George Mason University

    (Source: EHS Today - How to Encourage Near Miss Reporting)

These quotes demonstrate the industry-wide understanding of near miss reporting as a valuable tool for proactive safety measures. By fostering a culture of open communication and addressing employee concerns, organizations can harness the power of near miss data to create a safer work environment for all.


Near misses are a reality in many workplaces, and while they might seem like close calls to be brushed aside, they offer invaluable lessons in preventing future accidents.  The problem of under-reported near misses creates a blind spot in safety, hindering our ability to identify and address potential hazards.

However, there's a way forward. By fostering a culture of safety where employees feel empowered to report close calls without fear, we can unlock a wealth of benefits. Streamlining reporting processes, offering positive reinforcement, and practicing transparent communication are key steps in encouraging open communication about near misses.

The benefits of addressing under-reporting are clear: enhanced workplace safety, improved risk management, continuous safety improvement, and ultimately, a happier and healthier workforce. Let's move away from a culture of silence and embrace near misses as the valuable tools they are – opportunities to learn, improve, and create a safe and thriving work environment for all.

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