Farms are busy workplaces with the potential for injury lurking around every bend. With multiple chores occurring simultaneously, numerous employees with varying levels of experience, long days, and inclement weather unexpected hazards can be present at any time. A proactive tool to guard against future mishap, and an important part of improving your overall farm safety culture, is “near miss” reporting.
What is a near miss?
A near miss can be defined as a close call that could have resulted in personal injury, property damage, or an animal welfare incident…but didn’t. Call it a close call or a lucky break, these accidents that almost happened present a valuable discussion point for your next team meeting or safety training talk.
What are some examples of near misses?
- A dairy farm employee’s foot slips on a wet floor. She keeps her balance and doesn’t fall (this time).
- A field worker walks too close to moving machinery. His raincoat sleeve is snagged but tears away without injury.
- Big square bales of straw are being stacked in a shed with a skid steer. One bale falls from the stack but lands clear of the operator and nobody else is nearby.
While these incidents, and others like them, could just be shrugged off as work on the farm continues, there is real value in using these near misses as a training opportunity for the future. View them as “an accident waiting to happen” and plan proactively to keep safety top of mind for your team.
Encourage near miss reporting
It’s very likely that near miss incidents are occurring on your farm without your knowledge. Employees may be reluctant to share these safety snafus with you. Fear of reprisal or simply being embarrassed are very real feelings that can prevent your team from bringing near misses to your attention. Additionally, an employee may not want to tell you that they weren’t following existing safety protocols or that they simply made a mistake.
Encourage all employees to report near misses to you, regardless of fault. Assure them that there will not be punishment and thank them for bringing the issue to your attention. Express gratitude that it was not more serious than it was and that you’re glad they are okay. Explain to the employee that you plan to bring the issue up with the rest of your team at an upcoming meeting, but that you will keep it anonymous unless they wish to be identified.
Make efforts to address any engineering or housekeeping issues that may have contributed to the near miss immediately. Follow-up with the employee that brought the issue to your attention with any corrective actions you’ve taken. If no action or follow-up is taken, employees may be discouraged from reporting future incidents.
Make near miss reporting part of your new hire on-boarding. Explain it as an expectation of the job that potential safety issues are brought to your attention.
How can I use a near miss as a training opportunity?
Jot yourself a few notes about the near miss so that you can share it with the team. At your next team or safety meeting describe what happened (or what could have happened) in detail but without any names. Encourage your team to come up with solutions or ways to change the process to minimize future reoccurrence. Show sincere concern about what could have happened and remind the group that you want to hear about any near misses that happen on the farm.
Open and honest sharing about near misses on your farm can help create a positive workplace culture. Show you care about the safety and the well-being of your team with a conscious effort to include near miss reporting in your farm safety program.