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Near Miss or Good Catch – There’s A Lot to Learn!

Near Miss or Good Catch – There’s A Lot to Learn!

Last week, I presented at a project management conference on leading a safety culture, a culture where near misses are seen as a significant learning opportunity and not as potential disasters that are swept under the rug for fear of reprisal or job loss.

near miss is an unplanned event that did not result in injury, illness, or damage – but had the potential to do so.

© Shawn Stratton

© Shawn Stratton

It is safe to say that of the dozens of the minor and major incidents I was involved in over 15 years of leading expeditions, most, if not all, were successfully resolved due to past learning from documented near miss situations, everything from arranging and paying for an Indian military helicopter to perform a dramatic rescue at 12000 feet in the Himalayas, to managing challenging river crossings in the Yukon to encountering grizzly bears deep in the back country of Alaska.

Fortunately, most organizations I worked with had progressive cultures around documenting and learning from near misses. Unfortunately, not all organizations are like this. Recently, I have been speaking with some project managers who work in a culture of fear of disciplinary action for being involved with a near miss incident. This fear has caused them to not want to report near misses and minor incidents.

© Shawn Stratton

© Shawn Stratton

Alternatively, I know of several organizations that have rephrased the term ‘near miss’ to ‘good catch’. I know it is only semantics but in an area that usually conjures up fear, semantics can be important. One company not only expected to report ‘good catches’ on potentially dangerous situations but also have their employees report “good catches’ of positive incidents where employees’ actions showed great initiative in supporting the safety culture of the organization.

4 Ways To Encourage Employees Staff To Record Near Miss Incidents:

1.     Show Them Why

By clearly demonstrating how their recording of near misses is actually used to help other in similar situations and create change in policy and procedures, employees need to understand that in most circumstances if the near miss happened to them it could easily happen to someone else in their position. If they feel the report will come back to negatively impact their career or be placed in a binder on a dusty shelf never to be read again, they are less likely to fill in the report.

2.     Set Expectations

By reporting 4 or 5 (positive and negatives) good catches a month as part of their job description, employees will know it is a clear expectation. One company I researched mandated their employees to report 5 good catches a month.

© Shawn Stratton

Tents almost distroyed by a bear. © Shawn Stratton

3.     Offer Rewards

Publicly reward people for going above and beyond recording ‘good catches’. The display of appreciation does not have to be costly, just fair and inline with how they like to be appreciated. (Related: Are You Showing the Right Appreciation at Work)

Healthcare Quarterly  reported that each year Edmonton’s Capital Health Region selects the most significant Good Catches for special recognition. “Each staff member who is selected for recognition receives a Capital Health “Quality Matters” pin and a letter of recognition from the CEO and the Vice-President for their site or sector.” Once people notice others being praised for reporting near misses, they will be much more likely to report them in the future.

4.     Role Model

It is widely known that cultural change needs to be supported by the most senior employees within an organization. Having these more experienced employees report their own near misses for all to learn from will have a tremendous effect on creating a safety culture.

If organizations put as much emphasis on reporting and documenting near misses as they do on incident reports from accidents they would have a much safer work environment. The lessons learned from near misses can help prevent countless accidents in the future.

Action: Make sure your team members understand the clear and compelling reason WHY they need to record near miss incidents and make it easy for them to do so.

Until next week… Embrace the Adventure


Shawn Stratton is an international leadership and team building consultant, professional speaker, bestselling author and Ironman competitor. 

Click here to learn more about how Shawn can help your organization.

© 2016 Shawn Stratton. All rights reserved.