Close call incidents happen more frequently than you think. Did you catch yourself from slipping any time today? Did you walk over a spill in the lunch room? Or did you get a minor electrical shock from a power tool you were using?
All of these minor incidents can lead to major accidents if they are not reported and the hazard repaired or removed.
It may seem a little ridiculous to you to report every little incident you may encounter during the day. What if your boss gets angry at you for reporting a close call incident? What if you ruin your perfect safety record for reporting a near-accident? No doubt these questions have crossed your mind—but are any of these questions important if a close incident forgotten turns into the death of a co-worker? It happens.
Perhaps you are not sure what a close call incident is. Let’s look at these examples:
A co-worker is using a ladder. It seems fine, but as he comes down, one of the rungs sags as he steps on it. He notices a crack. He puts the ladder back without tagging it as needing repairs. The next day you grab the same ladder. As you start to climb you put your foot through the rung, lose your balance and fall, spraining your ankle.
You are hurrying into work as you are running late. As you back out of your driveway, you bump the garbage can because your brakes don’t seem to respond normally. You think nothing of it, but as you drive home that evening, your brakes fail and you crash into a telephone pole.
Your co-worker grabs a cup of coffee and spills some of it on the floor. You see him spill it but you step over it on your way to the coffee pot. The next minute you hear a loud crash. Someone else has gone in the lunchroom with supplies and has fallen on the floor after slipping on the coffee. He has broken his wrist.
All three of these accidents involved a warning signal. That warning is a close call incident. In the case of the cracked ladder rung, all it would have taken was a tag saying “defective” or “not usable” and then reporting it to the right people to have it fixed. With the car brakes, it would have taken a telephone call to a reliable mechanic as soon as you suspected trouble. And the spilled coffee? You saw it spilled as well. Even if the one who created the spill doesn’t clean it up, that doesn’t mean you just step over it. You have a responsibility to clean it up as well. Do you report a spilled cup of coffee to your supervisor? Probably not—but leaving it could mean filling out an accident report later.
These close call incidents may seem small, but all little incidents can lead to big accidents. Be on the lookout. With your eyes open you will prevent grief for yourself or a co-worker.