Machine Safety: Near-miss events and residual risk

Are near-miss events and residual risk related when it comes to machine safety? Is there a machine guarding requirement specified for near-miss events?


For machine safety are there any commonalities between near-miss events and residual risk? Do near-miss events have a machine guarding requirement? There is nothing in common. In fact, residual risk is fully covered in standards. I cannot find any standards coverage for near-miss events.

I recently read an article in Professional Safety (May 2013) titled: Near-Miss Reporting, A Missing Link in Safety Culture by Mike Williamsen, Caterpillar Safety Services. Given my background in machine safety and standards this article caused me to think about near-miss accountability and machine guarding. As I look back over time and ask the question, what machine safety standard has provided any guidelines for prevention of near-miss events? In fact, what standard has even mentioned the words – “near-miss”? Due to this absence, does it mean that near-miss events must be considered too vague for machine safety standards or risk assessment standards to provide meaningful guidance? Is near-miss protection for employees totally left up to the mind set of management?

I have looked into this subject and it seems that near-miss protection is left to a company’s “safety culture” as to how well it’s developed and ingrained into the safety practice. So far, I’ve not found a standard that provides any coverage for near-miss events. OSHA, on the other hand, does provide a definition for near-miss events: An event that does not result in an injury or damage. It is important to record and investigate near-misses to identify weaknesses in the safety and SHMS [health management system] that could possibly lead to an injury or damage.

However, aside from calling out the need to have a reporting format to record and elevate near-miss events, there doesn’t seem to be an OSHA regulation establishing requirements or enforcement details.

So, is it correct to assume that a near-miss event practice is to be called out in a company’s safety policy manual for the protection of employees? Or, maybe it’s a requirement for some companies because it’s written into agreements with their union? Yet others may have a near-miss program because of an injury settlement. Is this sounding all too familiar to most of you? Is it only due-diligence?

Can anybody share with us an approved standard or regulation covering near-miss events? And, what about the reporting forms?

Has this presented you with any new perspectives? Add your comments or thoughts to the discussion by submitting your ideas, experiences, and challenges in the comments section below.


J.B. Titus, CFSE

Related articles:

ASSE - Professional Safety Journal- Near-Miss Reporting, May 2013

OSHA – search for near miss

Control Engineering article: Process risk assessment uses big data

Contact: for “Solutions for Machine Safety”.


JON , NV, United States, 09/23/13 08:53 PM:

Our company has used Near-Miss reports for years now. They are filled out and then distributed to the other plants so that they can see if they might have a simular hazard. After the Near-Miss we discuss the potential it has to cause serious harm and create a short term and long term solution. A standard form is used to keep it simple, user friendly, and photos are always attached. But again, to your point, there is no official regulation. Just a strict company policy.
JB , GA, United States, 10/29/13 06:43 AM:

Jon - great to hear that best practices prevail at your Company's safety culture.
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