In the May edition of the American Society of Safety Engineers Journal, a senior safety consultant for Caterpillar discussed the under-reporting of “near-misses.” Near-misses are incidents where accidents happen or things go wrong at the workplace but where no one is hurt. These incidents are rarely, if ever, reported for many different reasons.
Unfortunately, when a serious accident occurs, it almost always turns out that there were a number of near-misses leading up to the serious injury or workplace fatality. If more workers reported these near-miss injuries, steps could be taken to correct problems before someone gets seriously hurt. Our Boston work injury attorneys know that there are many barriers to reporting near misses, but that employers should do everything they can to create a workplace culture that allows these incidents to be reported.
Why Workers Don’t Report Near Misses
The Caterpillar safety consultant identifies eight specific reasons why workers rarely if ever report near misses. These reasons include:
- Comfort with the status quo. Workers become comfortable with current conditions and with how things are at work, even if conditions are dangerous. Employees thus may not think to report problems that arise.
- Fear of being punished or of facing retaliation. Many workers are afraid to come forward and make reports, even if there has not been any history of prior retaliation for reporting. Employers should make very clear that those who report near-misses will not face any punishment or adverse consequences for doing so.
- Lack of follow-up. Even when employees do make reports of near-miss incidents, managers often fail to follow through or to provide any feedback to employees on corrective steps that were taken.
- Peer pressure: Co-workers may urge workers not to make a fuss or cause trouble.
- Concern about their own reputation. Sometimes employees believe that reporting a near-miss incident might make them look bad and hurt their own image or reputation at work.
- Concern about missed deadlines. Some workers fear that reporting an incident will slow things down and necessary work won’t get done on time.
- Concern about red tape. Workers don’t want to become involved in a long, drawn-out reporting process.
- Fear of blame: Managers who focus on placing blame, rather than preventing future accidents, can create a culture where people are reluctant to report near-miss workplace incidents.
Employers need to address these barriers to reporting and need to create an environment where workers are encouraged to report incidents that occur and that show weaknesses in workplace safety.
If proper reports are made to employers, employers can and should address dangers or risk factors so that a serious or deadly accident can be reported. If employers do not take action, employees may wish to pursue a claim with OSHA if workplace safety guidelines are being violated. While it may not be pleasant to become involved in making reports of workplace safety violations, getting seriously hurt at work is a much bigger problem.
If you are injured on the job in Massachusetts, call the Law Offices of Jeffrey S. Glassman for a free and confidential consultation to discuss your workers’ compensation claim– 1-888-367-2900.
Minorities at Greatest Risk of Workplace Injury in New England, Massachusetts Workers Compensation Lawyer Blog, May 27, 2013.