Fleets should adopt a near-miss reporting policy to reduce the risks faced by employees driving for work, according to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE).
The HSE defines a near-miss as “an unplanned event which does not cause injury or damage, but could have done so,” such as items falling near to personnel, incidents involving vehicles and electrical short-circuits.
“Reporting near-miss incidents is a very important way of identifying problem areas,” say guidance notes from the HSE. “This will help you highlight some of the less obvious hazards in a workplace, or identify areas where a problem is developing. Some models suggest that for every accident there are approximately 90 near-misses. If there is a good reporting system in place, the hazard could be dealt with before someone is injured.”
Reporting certain workplace incidents, which are also referred to as ‘dangerous occurrences’, is a legal requirement under the HSE’s Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations (RIDDOR).
But while RIDDOR covers high-risk incidents involving explosion, fire, overhead electric cables, the collapse of scaffolding and pipelines, it does not currently apply to deaths and injuries stemming from road traffic collisions unless the accident involves the loading or unloading of a vehicle, or the leak of a substance being carried by a vehicle.
However, Andrew Wetters, HSE policy adviser, workplace transport, strongly recommends that fleets adopt this style of near-miss reporting in order to identify areas of potential risk within their operations.
“You should be encouraging employees to report all incidents and near-misses,” he told delegates at ACFO’s autumn national seminar.
“So much can be learned by keeping a near-miss register.”
Regular referral to such a register can highlight patterns of risk emerging, which could be mitigated by a change of company policy.
It might discover, for instance, that delivery drivers are facing dangers when they unload, or that poor journey planning is pushing drivers to rush to meet targets, or even that vehicles are failing because drivers feel they can’t afford the downtime of having their car or van off-road for service or repair.
Wetters insists that reporting near-misses shouldn’t “be a black point on somebody’s record”.
The HSE says an anonymous reporting system can work to avoid staff fears or embarrassment, although it adds: “It is important to create a culture which encourages reporting of these accidents.”
Reporting such incidents can “identify the need for training and also identify where you can offer other things to improve driver abilities,” said Wetters.
“It might be that minor bumps and scrapes in the car park suggest that someone has an issue with spatial awareness.
“ can help you get a picture of a driver. Acting is all about using information that has come in: finding out how things can be improved and regularly checking to see if policies need updating.”
The HSE publishes RIDDOR forms online, which act as a template for recording the near-miss information required: the date, time and place of the event, personal details of those involved and a brief description of the nature of the event.
Useful additional information about an incident can include the way work was organised, the vehicle or machinery involved and the condition of the site or premises where the accident happened.
“All near-misses must be reported to the safety manager as soon as possible so that action can be taken to investigate the causes and to prevent recurrence,” said the HSE.
Importantly, Wetters says the reporting of near-misses should apply not only to the drivers of company vehicles, but also to grey fleet drivers who are using their own cars for work journeys.
“Health and safety legislation applies to all work activities, and that includes driving,” he said. “A lot of people think that when their staff get out on the road it’s up to them to look after themselves, but that certainly isn’t the case.
“When people use their own vehicle for business the private vehicles used for work purposes do fall under health and safety legislation.”