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Near miss and interventions : a study of the improvement in health and safety performance following increased near miss and observation reporting

Cooling, Simon


Simon Cooling


Stephen Pace

Peter, Prof. Waterhouse


We are often told as humans that we must learn from our mistakes, and the health and safety world is no different to this. After every major disaster, there are repeated call for us to ‘not repeat the same mistake again’. Since the early 1930’s we have followed the belief that major and minor incidents have the same causes as near misses, and therefore we have been guided to learn from near misses to help prevent the serious incidents. However, more recently we have seen the questioning of the wisdom of this, whilst others still hold the theory dear. We have seen studies and been taught that by reporting near misses, we can learn from them and improve the number of accidents we have, yet not actually established why the improvement occurred, only that it coincided with increased reporting of near misses.

This study aimed to find out if an improvement in accident performance following the encouragement of near miss and observation reporting is a result of interventions put in place. To achieve this, we looked at the reporting data of a large UK construction business to establish that they had achieved an improvement in accident performance through the encouragement of near miss reporting, and the level of interventions introduced following the reporting of near misses. We also conducted an online survey to establish the attitudes, beliefs and behaviours regarding near miss reporting of a sample of Construction Workers and their Supervisors or Line Managers of the organisation. We also asked about their opinions on how often interventions were introduced and the effectiveness of the interventions. Finally, we reviewed the literature of a large number of studies into near miss reporting, which looked at everything from the benefits of having a reporting system, attitudes to reporting and how the knowledge can affect our decisions.

What we found out was that there was insufficient evidence that the level of interventions introduced correlated to the improvement in accident performance. However, we did establish that an effective reporting culture can affect people’s attitudes towards reporting, increase their awareness
of the hazards around them and encourage them to be safety conscious in their behaviours. We found that whilst there was insufficient data about the interventions introduced, that in the opinions of the majority of the sample group, interventions were being introduced regularly, but not every time and that the interventions introduced were effective.

We also found that a near miss reporting system should minimise any barriers to reporting such as conflict with management and fears of retaliation and actively feedback to the person reporting the concern. It should be developed to maximise the learning it can provide the organisation in terms of management information and trend analysis.


Cooling, S. (2017). Near miss and interventions : a study of the improvement in health and safety performance following increased near miss and observation reporting. (Thesis). University of Hull. Retrieved from

Thesis Type Thesis
Deposit Date Oct 4, 2022
Publicly Available Date Feb 24, 2023
Keywords Chemistry
Public URL
Additional Information Department of Chemistry, The University of Hull
Award Date Jan 1, 2017


Thesis (2.1 Mb)

Copyright Statement
© 2017 Cooling, Simon. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced without the written permission of the copyright holder.

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