8 reasons employees avoid reporting near misses

In order to prevent workplace accidents and minimize risks, every company has the obligation to set up a solid health and safety policy and make sure everyone complies with all the rules and regulations in place.

There are many aspects covered by these policies, from staff training and risk assessment to delegating responsibility and establishing emergency procedures. Yet no matter how comprehensive safety plans are, it’s virtually impossible for a company to eliminate all potential hazards.

Even if employees follow all the safety guidelines religiously, there’s still a possibility that near miss incidents might happen. And when they do, the parties involved should report the event immediately to make sure the situation is addressed properly and nothing similar will happen in the future. This is how things should go down, but in reality, many employees choose to stay silent and that’s why a lot of accidents and near misses remain unreported.

The question here is, why the underreporting of hazards is such a prevalent phenomenon in so many work environments? Why do employees ignore the regulations and keep on working as if nothing happened? Here are some of the most common reasons why employees don’t report safety concerns and so many workplace hazards go unnoticed.

Fear

One of the most common reasons people don’t speak up when a workplace incident occurs is because they are afraid. What is there to fear, you might wonder. In many cases, the answer is fear of the unknown. Employees don’t know what the repercussions will be if they report the incident and they worry that this action might bring some kind of punishment. They’re afraid they will be blamed for the incident and that might have a negative impact on their career. So, they consider silence is the safer choice, when in fact it’s anything but that.

Embarrassment

Reporting a near miss can also be uncomfortable for an employee. Sometimes, they feel like they have to choose between being honest about what happened and dealing with the judgment and criticism of their peers and superiors. No one wants to have all fingers pointed at him and be stigmatized for being involved in a workplace accident, even if he wasn’t the one to blame. If the price for reporting a hazard is losing reputation and feeling extremely embarrassed, employees give up on doing the right thing.

Lack of time

Sometimes, employees can get so caught up in their day-to-day responsibilities, they might even forget that reporting risks and incidents is one of them as well. When the stress and pressure of fulfilling their tasks properly occupies all their thoughts, there’s little time left for workers to think about talking to a supervisor or a manager about potential hazards. Also, in many companies there’s a lot of bureaucracy to deal with when it comes to reporting near misses and employees simply see it as a waste of time and effort to start such a lengthy process. 

Lack of knowledge

When employees are neither afraid, nor short on time, there’s still a big obstacle that stands in the way of near miss reporting, and that’s the lack of knowledge. And that can cover a variety of aspects. Some employees don’t know the basics procedures to follow in order to report a near miss. They might not even be aware that if the incident has caused them some sort of damage, they have the right to file a claim for workers compensation. The aforementioned bureaucracy can complicate things to such an extent that workers feel completely confused about what they should or shouldn’t do, and give up trying to understand how things work in the end.

Company culture

Company culture is very important in ensuring a safe and healthy work environment. Stemming from that, if an organization doesn’t do much to encourage its employees to report near misses, they won’t take the initiative by themselves. What’s even worse, some companies fail to do their part after someone decided to take action and speak up about potential hazards. If employees notice that their actions are ignored and the hazards they’ve reported persist as if nothing ever happened, they won’t have any motivation to report near misses in the future.

Convenience

Even if there’s not much paperwork involved in reporting incidents and the company culture supports the process, employees might still see it as an unnecessary hassle. To put things simply, it’s much easier to do nothing at all than to be proactive about reporting near misses. Even the simplest procedures involve talking to a superior, writing a report or describing the incident or the potential hazard in detail. And some employees simply consider there are plenty of other things they could be doing with their time than standing in a manager’s office and talking about what could have happened or what might happen at some point.

Downplaying the incident

Not all near misses are as serious. Certain incidents can give employees a good scare, while others can go unnoticed. When an accident doesn’t result in significant damages, employees tend to downplay its seriousness. Then they see no point in reporting an event that didn’t have notable consequences, without realizing that it might have been just sheer luck that saved the day, and in the future circumstances could change. That’s why many so-called “small” incidents are not reported and lead to much bigger safety issues down the line.

Quick fixes

Another scenario that happens quite often is when the company takes immediate action to deal with a hazard and employees consider they’ve done more than enough. They don’t think it’s necessary to take any other measures and analyze the event further, since the problem was solved with a quick fix. Unfortunately, quick fixes are never the answer, no matter how insignificant the incident may seem. Reporting the near miss is still the best thing to do, as there might be other underlying issues that can’t be addressed by superficial solutions.

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