Hunger to Learn

I was approached by a manufacturing leader a few weeks ago with some questions about the varying levels of incidents that have an effect on an organization.  I’d like to say these teaching opportunities happen often, but alas they do not.  Let’s face it, Safety is not as sexy as building a product, shipping it to a customer, and making money.  There is a stigma surrounding safety that we as Safety Professionals have helped perpetuate, with our jargon, requirements, and smug ‘know-it-all’ attitude.  So our lack of sex-appeal in addition just makes it that much harder to reach out to people or be approached about safety.

This leader was motivated by a hunger to learn as much as he could in order to help keep his employees safe.  As a leader he wanted to know have general knowledge of every facet of the duty he has to his employees; with their safety being his number one concern.  I firmly believe that a leader with that mindset will make changes to any organization they are a part of.  It is not about only safety or only productivity, it is about having all facets of a company work in unison to achieve the organizations goals.  Great leaders know this and gain a general knowledge of every one.  Below is the answer to some of the questions he had.

Near Miss

A near miss is an incident or condition that could cause bodily harm or property damage, but luckily did not.  A person can recognize a near miss in the performance of their duties by either spotting a condition that is out of the norm, realizing that part of the process poses a hazard to workers, or witnessing an incident that narrowly avoided injury or property damage. Near miss reporting is important to an organization as it can tip Management off to a flaw in the process that was not previously considered when the process was newly implemented.  Corrective actions can be devised and implemented to improve the process with the information gathered during an investigation.  Near miss reporting helps improve working conditions by controlling hazards before someone gets hurt.

Incident (or Injury)

An incident is when someone was injured or property was damaged on the job. Even if the injured party goes to an occupational clinic, it can still be classified as only an incident if it does not meet the definition of a recordable injury per 29 CFR 1904.7.  The reporting of all incidents in the workplace is important because it helps an organization control hazards inherent in the process and can aid in the prevention of future incidents.  It also allows the organization to take appropriate action to provide the appropriate level of care to an employee who has become injured.  Though an incident exposes flaws within the process, it is another way Management can be alerted that something needs to be changed sooner rather than later.

OSHA Recordable Injury

A recordable injury is an injury requiring medical treatment beyond first aid as defined in 29 CFR 1904.7.  Some of the items that constitute a recordable injury include; days away from work (beyond the day of injury), stitches, administration of prescription strength medication, loss of consciousness, bone fractures, job-transfers or restrictions.  These injuries are recorded on the OSHA 300 log, which in some cases is submitted to OSHA each year under the new rule.  A recordable injury is evidence that there is a significant failure in the process allowing employees to become seriously injured. Before a recordable injury there are generally copious warning signs; near misses, and incidents have likely occurred but were either not reported or dismissed by Management.

OSHA Reportable Injury

 A reportable injury is an injury that must be reported directly to OSHA.  Severe injuries such as loss of an eye, amputations, or injuries requiring inpatient hospitalization must be reported to OSHA within 24 hours of the incident.  Fatalities must be reported within 8 hours. At this point the likelihood of an OSHA inspection is nearly guaranteed. 

Bringing it Together

In a perfect world all potential hazards would be caught and mitigated before employees even start working on a process, but unless mature hazard recognition and change management processes are in place this seldom happens.  There are plenty of opportunities leading up to an injury that should not be ignored, the near misses and incidents can be investigated and corrective actions implemented to prevent escalated injuries.  This information however is only as useful as the organization’s use of it.  Leaders who make successful utilization of the interlinked facets of an organization use near miss and incident information to transform troubled processes and organizations to safe and productive profit centers.

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11 thoughts on “What are Near Misses, Incidents, Recordable Injuries, & Reportable Injuries?

  1. Muhammad Umer Draz says:

    Posting this information on LinkedIn is a great way to refresh the HSE professional’s knowledge


  2. Clarke Molter says:

    I read a related article by Pam Ferrante that described these terms also. I tend to agree that the definition of the term Incident – is any unplanned event which may or may not cause harm to an individual, equipment or property. I also believe the author of this article is correct in the fact that safety professionals have helped to create the confusion surrounding recordable / reportable injury incidents.

    Not being new to the world of safety, however new at earning a living as a safety professional I ask.
    Is it possible to step back and use the age old K.I.S.S. adage when i comes to reporting? Can we as professionals help to eliminate some of the confusion?

    for example – and not mention Job sites and work places, but we are consistently surrounded by hazards. We need to continue to be aware and coach, learn about these hazards to safely navigate our daily lives at home and at work.
    It’s when something unplanned happens no matter how small it then becomes an incident, where ALL incidents must be reported. I truly believe the term “near miss; close call; near hit” is causing this confusion and it is up to us safety professionals to filter and prioritize all incidents, before a recordable and or reportable injury can occur.

    • Orient Admin says:


      Thanks for commenting. We safety pros throw our highfalutin 5 dollar words (i.e. deflagration) out to show that we alone are the experts. We really need to K.I.S.S our vocabulary and our methods. Inclusion at all levels of an organization is key. Training employees or safety committee members in hazard recognition goes a long way in evening out the knowledge base.

  3. George Kohn says:

    This is what LinkedIn is all about… Regardless of discipline or career, finding something of benefit (even if it is a reminder) to help us do our job better and consistently
    Thanks for this…

  4. Gerry Schumann, Mishap Investigation Program Executive says:

    In NASA we call “Near Misses” “Close Calls” which is defined as an event in which there is no or minor injury requiring first aid, or no or minor equipment or property damage (less than $20,000), but which possesses a potential to cause a mishap. However, we also call “Close Calls” a Gift! We were lucky, we were given an opportunity to correct a event from escalating to a potential catastrophe. So what do we do with this so called gift? Well we sure don’t put it on a shelf for later scrutiny or wait till we have extra budget to see how far the gift could have manifested itself before reaching out and doing harm. We investigate it. We trend. We look for a Root Cause(s). We check if Human Factors played a part in the event. Then we develop a lasting corrective action. NASA has one of the best Mishap Investigation Programs in the Federal Government. We scrutinize every possibility. We CANNOT afford to fail. We insure that all employees have the right to file a close call without fear of reprisal! We CANNOT afford to fail. The world is always watching!

    • Orient Admin says:


      Much of my early safety training was hosted by the Naval Safety Center, and I was in aviation while on Active Duty with the Marines. Much of the terminology you used in your post sounds very similar to what I remember hearing in Naval Aviation. We also classified incidents by dollar amount of damage and level of personnel injury. NASA is a high profile agency, so having the best investigation program in the Fed is a definite asset. I like that the root cause is investigated primarily and human factors is investigated more as a contributing factor. Close calls are definitely a gift, they punch holes in a process without the property damage or loss of human life of a mishap.

  5. David, your article brings up several good points. The know it all attitude in the profession needs to be quashed! There is no need for it nowadays.
    Since HSSE does not produce a product, our challenge is to communicate the value of safety to organizations, safe operations actually save companies money!
    Even by defining what is what, the discerning lines can become blurred such as the difference between a near miss and an incident. When these events occur, we, as HSSE professionals have an opportunity to assist teams in communicating & implementing the learnings in order to make operations safer for all. Many companies are getting very good at this.
    HSSE should not be an impediment to operations, it should facilitate safe operations.
    Thank you for sharing.

    • Orient Admin says:


      Thanks for your input. Your thoughts on this seem to nearly mirror mine. I think the field is starting to move in the right direction and add more value to the companies who hire safety pros.

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