Conservative estimates of safety underreporting rates show the global total around 25 percent. That’s a full quarter of workplace incidents go underreported.
Of course, safety practitioners will tell you the rates are even higher. In some firms, sectors, and countries, rates might be well north of 60 percent. How can PCBUs (Persons Conducting a Business or Undertaking) get a firm handle on runaway safety underreporting rates?
Foremost, PCBUs must get serious about developing proactive safety cultures and communicating to their workers that incident reporting, including near miss analysis, is foundational to fulfilling the mission of the Safety program. Why? The research shows that PCBUs who pursue public and/or private safety compliance strategies have significantly higher rates of safety reporting than those that don’t.
And it’s easy to see why. PCBUs who haven’t oriented their Safety program around compliance goals tacitly communicate to their workers that safety procedures only impede productivity. It’s only natural, then, that those same workers wouldn’t put too much of their discretionary effort into safety reporting. Getting workers to go that extra mile will take reinforcing the benefits of a safety culture and showing workers how those benefits impact them. They include:
- Fewer critical safety incidents and less damage to facilities and equipment
- Lower rates of injury and illness
- Reduced costs
- Improved productivity
- Higher employee engagement
An attitudinal shift is just the start, though. Rigorous trainings and site-specific inductions also hammer home the importance of reporting. Sure, jurisdictions mandate trainings as part of a worker’s induction; but we all know that the quality of those trainings varies widely. Many are simply pro-forma, box-ticking exercises, leading to poor training, minimal involvement in safety initiatives, and low supervision, which all imperil workers.
Another solution to boost safety reporting rates is improving the reporting functionality available to workers. Seems like a no brainer, yet workers often decry not having the ability to report incidents, hazards, and observations from the field. As a result, frontline workers and their managers have to wait until they’re back in the office to report. By that time, they might have forgotten key details of the incident in question.
So, what capabilities do we have in mind, specifically? Safety teams need access to a mobile-accessible, integrated WHS software system that gives workers easy-to-use, responsive incident reporting capabilities in the field. The reporting functionality must be robust. In other words, workers should be able to capture a whole range of event report types, including safety, environmental, near misses, injuries, security, compliance, complaints, suggestions, etc.
PCBUs already pursing proactive compliance postures have much to gain from taking an integrated approach to safety incidents, hazards, and risks, as well – and not just for staff, for contractors, volunteers, and members of the public, as well.
Technology, here, can help. Risk management is important. But when safety risks become full-blown safety incidents, incident management capabilities (for the reporting and management of all environmental, health and safety events) must also be integrated into the same flexible, workplace health and safety software. Specific functionality to facilitate collaboration among multiple stakeholders include flexible dashboards, analytics, as well as reporting. To learn more tips to bolster safety reporting rates at your business as well as to improve the quality of your near miss analysis, download our guide to addressing safety underreporting.
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