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A near miss or near hit refers to an unplanned event that has the potential to incur loss, injury, or damage, but did not. So you may be asking yourself, why then, if the incident did not cause loss, injury, or damage, would it need to be reported to anyone? The answer is a simple one. Near misses provide opportunity to learn valuable lessons from an event that had potentially disastrous consequences.

Near miss reporting can be an important indicator of the safety culture within a company. Typically, the effectiveness of a safety program is measured by lagging indicators, such as the number of incidents, injuries, days away from work, etc. They are reactive in nature and reporting occurs AFTER the facts. Conversely, leading indicators are proactive in nature, such as safety initiatives or activities reported with the goal of preventing adverse events BEFORE they happen. Leading indicators are focused on future safety performance and continuous improvement. They are a tool that can be used not only to prevent future incidents, but also to identify faults within the system. If our goal each day is to make certain our employees go home the exact way they came to work that day, by recognizing and reporting near miss incidents, we are identifying and controlling hazards before workers are injured, resulting in a significant improvement in worker safety and enhanced safety culture.

REASONS TO REPORT NEAR MISSES:

  • By investigating near miss incidents, you can identify the root cause and the weaknesses in the system that led to the near miss.
  • Investigation results can be used to improve safety systems, control hazards, reduce risk, and learn lessons. All of these represent opportunity for training, feedback on performance, and a commitment to continuous improvement.
  • Near miss reporting is vitally important in preventing serious, fatal and catastrophic incidents that are less frequent, but far more harmful than other incidents.

Reporting should be encouraged, not discouraged. Any negative feedback will only result in a safety culture where reporting is not a priority. The intent of a near miss program is to learn a lesson once, implement appropriate controls, and share information among team members in order to prevent similar occurrences from happening in the future. It is important that we emphasize positivity, especially when it comes to reporting near misses. As professionals, we all have the same goal – ensure our employees return home each day the same way they arrived on the job – healthy and uninjured. Tracking and trending near misses, in addition to incidents, helps us achieve this goal.

This post first appeared in our quarterly publication, Robinson Report (Volume 16, Issue 4, 2018). View the full issue here.

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As the heat and humidity of summertime in Missouri are now upon us, I wanted to take this opportunity to remind everyone of the dangers involved when we are exposed to extreme heat or work in hot environments.

High temperatures kill hundreds of people every year. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, extreme heat caused 7,415 heat-related deaths in the United States from 1999 to 2010. While no one is exempt from experiencing heat-related death and illness, they are preventable. 

High temperatures and humidity stress the body’s ability to cool itself, so anyone who is exposed to extreme heat or works in a hot environment may be at risk of heat stress; however, those particularly susceptible to these illnesses include older adults, young children, and persons with chronic medical conditions. Additionally, people who work outdoors such as construction workers and farmers, to people who work in hot environments such as miners and factory workers, are all at an increased risk of heat stress and even injury due to fogged-up safety glasses, sweaty palms, dizziness, etc.

There are three major forms of heat illness: heat cramps, heat exhaustion, and heat stroke, with heat stroke being a life threatening condition. I will discuss these, as well as signs and symptoms of each. Finally, I will provide some tips for heat-related illness prevention and what to do if someone you know is experiencing heat-related illness.

Heat Cramps
Heat Cramps are painful spasms of the muscles, caused when workers drink large quantities of water but fail to replace their body’s salt loss. Tired muscles (those used for performing the work) are usually the ones most susceptible to cramps. Cramps may occur during or after working hours and may be relieved by taking liquids by mouth or IV saline solutions for quicker relief, if medically required. 

Heat Rash
Heat Rash (prickly heat) may occur in hot and humid environments where sweat isn’t easily removed from the surface of the skin by evaporation. When extensive or complicated by infection, heat rash can be so uncomfortable that it inhibits sleep and impedes a worker’s performance. It can be prevented by resting in a cool place and allowing the skin to dry. 

Fainting
Fainting (heat syncope) may be a problem for the worker not acclimatized to a hot environment who simply stands still in the heat. Victims usually recover quickly after a brief period of lying down. Moving around, rather than standing still, will usually reduce the possibility of fainting.

Symptoms of Heat Exhaustion
• Headaches, dizziness, lightheadedness, or fainting.
• Weakness and moist skin.
• Mood changes such as irritability or confusion.
• Upset stomach or vomiting.

Symptoms of Heat Stroke
• Dry, hot skin with no sweating.
• Mental confusion or losing consciousness.
• Seizures or convulsions.

What to Do for Heat-Related Illness
• Follow on-site medical procedures (see orientation or site documents).
• Move the worker to a cool, shaded area.
• Loosen or remove heavy clothing.
• Provide cool drinking water.
• Fan and mist the person with water.

Preventing Heat Stress

• Know signs/symptoms of heat-related illnesses; monitor yourself and coworkers.
• Block out direct sun or other heat sources.
• Use cooling fans/air-conditioning; rest regularly.
• Drink lots of water; about 1 cup every 15 minutes.
• Wear lightweight, light colored, loose-fitting clothes.
• Avoid alcohol, caffeinated drinks, or heavy meals.

Prevention of heat stress is important and is often overlooked. Training should be provided to anyone working in a hot environment so they understand what heat stress is, how it affects their health and safety, and how it can be prevented.

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