Throughout the life of the National Firefighter Near Miss Reporting System, there have been inconsistencies on what truly constitutes a near miss. A multitude of disciplines have viewed the concepts of near miss differently, yet all had similar hopes for the output of such a program.
When most fire service professionals consider what constitutes a near miss, they think of events where someone was almost injured or almost had a department-property damage accident, but through a fortunate break in the chain of events, crisis was averted.
And rightfully so.
This was the definition outlined by those considered the ground-breakers, those who brought the concept of near miss to the fire service. Through the vision of people like Chief Billy Goldfeder, Gordon Graham, and Chief John and Mrs. Amy Tippett, the fire service began a transformation of the culture in the area of safety.
Through these forerunners from programs like the National Firefighter Near Miss Reporting System, the Courage to Be Safe Program and CloseCalls.com, we’re beginning to see incidents, such as line-of-duty deaths, slowly reduce. These individuals and their programs are only a handful of the multitude that can take credit for this slow but steady success.
However, the Firefighter Near Miss Program is struggling with an identity crisis. While the definition of a near miss was fairly limiting, hundreds of reports have been submitted that involve a firefighter being injured or a piece of equipment being damaged. Was that a near miss or a direct hit? Something more severe happened, yet a report was submitted?
In fact, a great number of reports submitted to the Firefighter Near Miss Reporting System include incidents where firefighters were hurt or equipment was damaged. In 2017 alone, 24% of reports included a firefighter injury and 23% admitted to everything from minor to catastrophic property damage.
The firefighters who submitted such reports used the system with the exact intent to do so. They provided the first-person perspective on the contributing factors of the event. There were in-depth lessons that they shared. They provided recommended practices in the first person on how to prevent a similar event from happening.
These reports aren’t a skewed version to meet some legal precedence, but the raw information of the people who witnessed or experienced the event, free from concerns of negative repercussion. While the report may be considered the gray area from the stereotypical definition of the term near miss, the overall intent far exceeded the expectation.
Because of this confusion, the Firefighter Near Miss Reporting System’s staff began an extensive process through their 2018 strategic plan to identify a better definition that meets the reports submitted to the system.
Much like the near-miss staff did at the onset of the program, they began looking at other disciplines with more history of near-miss reporting to better define the term. This was done not to restrict reports from being submitted, but to welcome reports where firefighters wish to share their experience and what they learned.
In 2002, three years before the beginning stages of the fire service’s near-miss system, the chemical industry published a paper on the importance of near-miss reporting to improve safety and reduce unwanted accidents. Their definition provided a much broader spectrum in the definition of near miss so that there aren’t any limiting factors that could potentially refrain an individual from submitting.
Through some slight editing, the Firefighter Near Miss Reporting System has redefined what they believe is a near miss to the following:
A near miss is considered an opportunity to improve health and safety practices based on a condition or an incident with potential for more serious consequence.
This new definition was launched at the 2018 Fire Department Safety Officer’s Annual Safety Forum in Scottsdale, Arizona. Marketing is being created to remind everyone that if an event occurs that if shared can prevent another injury, accident or loss of life, they will share their story.
The Firefighter Near Miss Reporting System is doing much more than just redefining the term or trying to collect more data with regards to injuries or accidents.
For the past several years, through the requests of several stakeholders, the IAFC has been finishing its department-level Near Miss Reporting System, the Insight360 Event Reporting Tool. This all-hazards, risk-management tool will provide much more than a generic near-miss report to the individual fire departments that they can share in-house.
This system has identified a streamlined process that makes collecting data easier for all involved, from the back-step firefighter to the health-and-safety officer or chief of department. By improving several sources of frustrations in collecting necessary data about injuries, accidents and the previously defined near misses, the information has a more powerful message.
Imagine an injury-reporting process where the injured party only needs to complete one interview process to create the multitude of necessary forms that meet the reporting processes of human resources, risk management or worker’s compensation.
Imagine that same system building multiple levels where those involved with that reporting process don’t have to start a whole new report, but simply continue the existing report through building more information to meet any expectations from the same processing organizations.
This system brings together all the concepts of near-miss reporting, where departments can share injury events, property-damage accidents and the stereotypical, previous version of a near miss in an after-action format that support preventing similar occurrences from happening again.
This same system brings a multitude of analytics to real-time where everyone in the department can see analytical data of injuries, accidents and near misses in their department.
The Insight360 Event Reporting Tool is a subscription service brought to you by the IAFC. The National Firefighter Near Miss Reporting System continues to be a free, anonymous, nonpunitive reporting system that any firefighter may participate in. And we strongly encourage them to do so, whether the event led to an injury or accident or something just almost happened.
These venues are created so firefighters across the country have the necessary tools to work in safer manners and to continue the trend in reducing line-of-duty injuries and deaths.
Should you want more information about the Insight360 Event Reporting Tool, contact the IAFC at Insight360@IAFC.org. For more information on how to incorporate the concepts of the free, anonymous, nonpunitive National Firefighter Near Miss Reporting System, go to FirefighterNearMiss.com or email us at NearMiss@IAFC.org.