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Occupational Health and Safety, Animal Welfare and Environmental Protection

Near Misses

„Phew, that was close!“      „No worries, I'm ok!“

- Why reporting and investigating near misses matters anyway

In 1996, Frank Bird analysed around 1.7 million accidents. He found that for every fatal accident, there are ten serious accidents, 30 non-serious accidents and around 600 near misses. But what exactly is an accident?

An accident is a sudden and unforeseen external event that results in injury or death. For an accident to qualify as a workplace accident, it must be sustained by an insured individual while undertaking an insured activity. Having a heart attack in the workplace, for example, does not qualify as a workplace accident as a heart attack is not an external event. Slipping and falling in the cafeteria during lunch break does not qualify either since having lunch at the cafeteria is not an insured activity. However, accidents sustained by employees on their way to and from the cafeteria do qualify as workplace accidents!

Near misses are events that did not result in an injury or death but had the potential to do so. The term also includes unsafe conditions or practices, e.g. an uncovered manhole that did not cause an accident.

If they do not cause harm, why is it important to report and investigate near misses? Understanding and preventing near misses helps to prevent non-serious, serious and fatal accidents. Near misses occur in dangerous situations, as do accidents. By identifying and eliminating dangerous situations, we can protect ourselves and others from harm.


Relevant laws and regulations

Near misses indicate that there are unsafe conditions or practices. This is why they need to be investigated and analysed in the risk assessments that are required under Section 5 Arbeitsschutzgesetz (Occupational Health and Safety Act, ArbSchG). In addition, German legislation on occupational health and safety (e.g. Sections 3 to 5, 9 ArbSchG) requires that accidents be prevented by taking appropriate measures. This applies to all accidents irrespective of their nature and also to near misses.


Reporting near misses

We can only learn lessons from near misses if we report, record and analyse them.

If we talk about near misses, we give others the opportunity to learn from the ‘mistakes’ of their co-workers.

Section 15 ArbSchG even requires that not only all workplace and travel accidents be reported but also all events that did not result in an injury or death but had the potential to do so.

This means that near misses too must be reported to the Office of Occupational Health and Safety.

The staff there are specialists in determining the causes of accidents and incidents and how they can be prevented in the future. Near miss reports provide them with valuable information: If the same dangerous situation keeps occurring, they will know that there is probably a more fundamental problem.

To report a near miss, use the  near miss report form"


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