Accidents, Incidents and Near Misses in the workplace

Health and Safety expert, Adam Williams discusses the differences between accidents, incidents and near misses, and what procedures employers can put in place to minimise the risks of them occurring in the workplace.

Every year people are killed or injured at work. Over 40 million working days are lost annually through work-related accidents and illnesses.

What are accidents, incidents and near misses?

Workplace accidents

A workplace accident is an incident, meaning an unexpected workplace event that resulted in injury or even fatality. Many injuries are non-critical, but many are.

Critical injuries include loss of consciousness, bone fracture, amputation of any kind, loss of sight in at least one eye, severe burns, and substantial loss of blood.

Workplace incidents

The first rule of thumb is to remember that all unexpected workplace events are incidents. However, not all incidents are accidents or near-misses. 

The broad definition of an incident describes it as an event that disrupts regular work activity and operations and potentially causes significant risk for everyone involved. 

You must report and follow up on all workplace incidents, no matter how big or small their consequences are.

Near misses

Near misses are a subset of incidents where no one got hurt, but only by a pure stroke of luck. In a near-miss, someone was a hair’s breadth away from injury. If you’re having trouble determining whether an event was an incident or a near-miss, all you need to do is consider the following: 

  1. Was this an unexpected or adverse incident?
  2. Did anyone hurt?
  3. If the conditions were slightly different, say, if someone was standing only a few centimetres to the side could anyone have gotten hurt?

How can we prevent accidents, incidents and near misses in the workplace?

  1. Conduct risk assessments. Regular risk assessments should take place to check for any possible physical, mental, chemical and biological hazards.
  2. Maintain and inspect machinery. Ensure that you inspect and maintain machinery regularly. This will help to protect your staff from injuries caused by malfunctions, and also keep up with efficiencies.
  3. Provide regular and up-to-date training. You should not expect an employee to do their job without the proper training, especially when this involves operating machinery. Provide regular and up-to-date training so that staff can safely do their jobs. Ensure that your team is carrying out tasks as trained and not taking shortcuts which could lead to an accident or near miss.
  4. Provide appropriate PPE. Provide your staff with the appropriate Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for them to be able to carry out their job safely.
  5. Keep work spaces clean. Loose wires, piles of documents on the floor, spillages and general clutter can increase the likelihood of accidents such as slips, trips and falls in the workplace.
  6. Display signage. You should display appropriate signage in the workplace to warn of any hazards.
  7. Report accidents and near misses. You should report all accidents or near misses in the company accident book. This will help you to identify the risk and work out what action to take to stop other incidents of the same nature from happening in the future.

How can oneSafe help?

oneSafe’s logging functionality allows you to record any accidents or near misses in your workplace. 

To find out more information or if you require any Health and Safety advice, get in contact with our team of experts.

T: 0330 107 1037


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