Documenting, communicating and resolving near misses can help reduce incidents that cause serious injury or death. Jacob Hencke, with PROtect, emphasized this in his presentation during the Plant Maintenance and Safety Summit, Dec. 16 and 17.
Hencke presented during the panel “Your Most Valuable Asset: Deploying Safety Strategies Aimed at Eliminating Lost Time Injuries, Near Misses.”
“Your most valuable asset: your people,” he said.
Not all incidents have the same risk level, so they can’t all be evaluated through the same lens, Hencke said. A fall from an elevated platform is a serious injury or fatality (SIF) incident, whereas a fall on slippery ice on the ground is a non-SIF incident.
A SIF includes fatality, life-threatening injury or illness, and life-altering injury or illness. Life-threatening injuries are those that are likely to lead to death without immediate medical attention. Life-altering injuries could include injury that causes permanent or long-term impairment of organs, function, or a body part. Hencke cited burns as an example of a life-altering injury.
Hencke shared a story about employees raking coal in a powerhouse. Employees knew that if too much coal piled up, it would release a fireball while raking. They told each other informally about this risk, but it was not reported or documented as a near miss. “Employees didn’t recognize this hazard, that it had serious injury potential and it should be dealt with.”
SIF precursors like this can go unnoticed because they’re identified in near misses or missed entirely due to lack of reporting, recognition or knowledge about the reporting process. But SIF precursors can be eliminated before they have a chance to occur, Hencke said.
Hencke implored managers to think critically about SIF near misses. “Do your employees readily identify near misses, or does your site simply not have near misses?” Do employees have near miss training? Do managers support near miss reporting? If one is reported, is it addressed in a positive manner to encourage further near miss reporting?
“Near misses are a critical part of not just regular safety, but specifically incidents that have serious injury, fatality potential,” Hencke said.
SIF incidents could include mobile equipment operation, energy isolation, elevated work, suspended load, line break/chemical exposures, confined space, and contractor activities. But not all carry the same SIF potential, Hencke said. In a recent evaluation, PROtect found that 80 percent of mobile equipment operation had SIF potential, while confined space work was at 100 percent SIF potential.
“You have to take a multipronged approach,” he said.
Robust near miss reporting would include incident investigation protocol with SIF precursor identification; and review for site-specific operations (hazardous operations, etc.).
Not all incidents are SIF, he cautioned, so reducing SIFs doesn’t necessarily reduce all hazardous incidents. But, of course, they’re the most dangerous and developing a protocol will help protect a plant’s most valuable assets.