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Near Miss vs. Behavior-Based Safety

Updated: Feb 13, 2022

Safety is critical for every business and there are many approaches to improving safety standards. One debate revolves around Near-Miss reporting versus Behavior-Based safety. To demonstrate these approaches, let’s consider the following scenario.

Bob is sipping coffee as he walks toward the back of the warehouse. His phone buzzes with a message from his wife that needs a response. Above him, Rick is walking along a catwalk to survey the space for inventory. Rick doesn’t notice an unsecured wrench and nudges it with his foot as he passes. The tool falls to the warehouse floor and….

… clatters to the ground just behind Bob.


…. hits Bob, resulting in an injury

How Near-Miss Reporting Can Help

If the unsecured tool misses Bob, it qualifies as a near-miss. A near-miss is an unplanned occurrence in the workplace that does not result in injury, illness, or damage but might have. Tracking near-miss situations involves evaluating the environment, procedures, and other aspects of the workplace to make corrections to prevent future injuries. In the above example, the unsecured tool could easily have fallen on Bob. Near-miss reporting challenges teams to put safety first.

Breaking Down Behavior-Based Safety

What if the unsecured tool landed on Bob and results in an injury? With roots in behavioral sciences, Behavior-Based Safety relies on the idea that most workplace accidents result from unsafe behaviors. This method involves observations of employees as they work followed by feedback on their behaviors in the workplace. At-risk behaviors are identified so that corrections can be made, including new, company-wide procedures where appropriate.

In the above scenario, both men exhibited unsafe behaviors. Certainly, an observer would note the inattentiveness and remind the men to be aware of their surroundings. The observer may have noted the unsecured tool and addressed the safety issue there also.

The Bottom Line on Near-Miss vs. Behavior-Based Safety

Accidents that result in injuries are costly for everyone involved. Creating ways to curtail workplace accidents and build a safety-conscious culture is critical to the success of any business.

Near-Miss Reporting requires employee involvement, excellent communication, and an organized reporting system. It also relies on the safety team to evaluate several aspects of the workplace for each incident. In contrast, Behavior-Based Safety programs rely on observations by certain employees who can then give feedback and make recommendations.

Near-Miss Reporting strives to prevent a non-injury accident from recurring and causing an accident in the future. Behavior-Based Safety also strives to prevent future incidents, but it may rely on injury-related accidents before an at-risk behavior is identified.

Ultimately, you’ll need to determine which approach best fits your company culture. Either way, your team will need to be engaged and you’ll require an efficient reporting system to be successful.

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