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October 28, 2020 | Insights

Tracking Near-Miss Incidents to Improve Yard Operations Safety

October 28, 2020 | Insights

Most companies have policies requiring documentation and investigation for any event that results in a workplace injury or property damage, and for good reason. It’s important to discover the root causes of such events so that they can be prevented in the future. 

 

However, not every incident results in an injury or property loss. Sometimes, unplanned events occur that have the potential to cause these types of outcomes, but didn’t. The Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety (CCOHS) and the U.S. Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) refer to these events as “near-misses” or “dangerous occurrences.” In the case of moving vehicles, some use the terms “near hit” or “near collision.”

 

In the case of a near-miss, something fortuitous occurs that prevents injury or damage. To use a generic example, a texting driver may look up at the last second, causing them to avoid rear-ending the car in front of them. Whether the collision occurs or not in this scenario, the driver was still texting. This example illustrates why tracking and investigating near-misses in your yard operation can help prevent incidents that cause losses in the future. 

 

Near-miss incident reporting and its impact

 

The National Safety Council (NSC) is a nonprofit agency that is dedicated to eliminating the leading causes of preventable injuries and deaths, both inside and outside the workplace. NSC shared several industrial near-miss reporting examples in a recent white paper on the subject:

 

  • A petroleum company that implemented a hazard identification initiative, and gained greater involvement of all employees in risk assessment and work planning. Employees at all levels use their discretion to spot and fix problems before they result in harm with the added benefit of greater responsibility for their work, including the utilization of safe working practices.

 

  • An engineering company uses its “Occurrence Reporting System” to record safety-related near-misses and incidents across its site. Management reviews these on a regular basis to identify trends and areas for improvement. 

 

  • A chemical manufacturing company tracks incidents that result in injuries on the lowest part of the injury pyramid (those that don’t result in the injured person seeking medical intervention) and near-misses to identify and predict areas where more significant injuries or losses are more likely to occur. The reporting system encourages employees to take action to resolve issues. At this company, employees are also required to set personal safety goals and their progress is measured and incorporated into their performance metrics.

 

The Canadian Medical Protective Association also gathered examples of near-misses that could have had a drastic impact on patients:

 

  • During preparation for an operation, a vial of a neuromuscular blocking agent was inadvertently used instead of sodium chloride as a reconstitution agent. Luckily, the anesthesiologist noticed the substitution before any drug was administered and reported the near-miss to the hospital. The hospital contacted the Institute for Safe Medication Practices Canada (ISMP), who subsequently distributed a safety bulletin on the potential mix-up. The manufacturer then made significant changes in the packaging and labeling of the neuromuscular agent to prevent such mistakes from occurring in the future.

 

  • A patient was scheduled for surgery on his right knee. After having checked the patient’s medical record and confirming the site with the patient, the orthopaedic surgeon used a permanent marking pen to initial the right knee in the centre of the operative field. When the surgeon arrived in the operating room, he found that the left knee has been prepped and draped instead of the right. Because the surgeon knew that he must see the initials before making any incision or puncture, he caught the mistake and performed the operation on the correct knee. As a result, the hospital increased awareness of its “operate through your initials” approach to preventing wrong-sided surgery.

 

Why implement near-miss reporting in your yard operation?

Looking at both near-misses and loss incidents will give you a fuller picture of areas in your yard operation that need improvement. Managers can gain better insight into team member behavior and use this data to determine where to focus their safety training efforts for the greatest impact. 

 

A thoughtfully executed near-miss reporting program can also help encourage a workplace culture of open communication and continuous improvement. 

 

Near-miss reporting best practices

Encouraging employee participation is the key to creating an effective near-miss reporting system, but some team members may be hesitant to report for fear of punishment for themselves or their co-workers. To ease these concerns, be sure to reinforce that near-miss reporting is non-punitive. 

 

Establish a structured policy and procedure for near-miss reporting, and communicate it clearly to all team members. It’s equally (if not more) important to educate team members on why near-miss reporting is essential—to keep everyone on the yard site safe and to improve the team’s performance.

 

You may also consider incentivizing near-miss reporting to reinforce the shift in culture. Recognizing team members for high participation levels can be a good start to increase employee engagement in the program.

 

Finally, showing the effectiveness of your program is key to winning long-term buy-in from your team. Share trends in your data and be sure to celebrate your successes in addition to coaching in areas that show opportunity for improvement. 

 

Near-miss reporting at NSSL

Near-miss reporting is ingrained in our culture at NSSL. Our team members know that open discussion about areas for improvement contributes to a safer environment. Technology also plays an important role in the execution of our programs. For example, we have recently implemented video cameras on many of our shunt vehicles to give our teams better visibility of how standard operating procedures (SOPs) are being followed. 

 

All safety-related data is tracked at NSSL using safety audit software. Our team uses this data (including near-miss documentation) to determine where to focus on improving. We share regular progress updates with our employees and our customers to demonstrate how their programs are improving. 

 

This data-driven approach is part of what makes our total yard management programs effective in improving safety and productivity for our customers. By leveraging leading indicators such as near-miss report data, we are able to proactively adjust to ensure our operations are continuously improving. To learn more about what our approach can do for you, get in touch with an NSSL expert today. 

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