It goes without saying that you should be performing a thorough investigation of all accidents that occur during the production of your event. But are you taking the time to identify and investigate all near-miss incidents, as well?

By definition, a near-miss incident is an unplanned event that does not result in an injury or damage, but has the potential to do so. Such events are more common than one may think. A dropped tool that mercifully avoids striking anyone. A stagehand who just manages to dodge a quick-turning forklift. A stage rail that collapses without causing a fall. Each of these cases (and hundreds more like them) present a critical opportunity to identify weaknesses in your operation that may compromise the safety of your event.

Unfortunately, most near-miss incidents go unreported. With no immediate consequences, many workers simply shrug off the incident and get back to work. Others may forgo reporting an incident due to fear of punishment from management or reprisal from their coworkers. A tight production deadline can also cause someone to delay reporting an incident until an event is over, if at all.

As event organizers, it is our obligation to stress the importance of incident reporting, including near-misses. We should strive to create a working environment that is free of blame and encourages open communication. Our event safety plans should include a documented incident reporting process that is simple, relevant, and responsive. Those incidents that are reported should be followed up on as soon as possible, and investigated with an eye towards identifying system deficiencies and developing the corrective actions necessary to prevent a recurrence.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) does not currently have a specific standard that governs internal incident reporting and investigations. However, there are a number of state, non-profit, and private organizations that provide training and ideas for developing an incident investigation program. When combined with the industry-specific guidance found in the Event Safety Guide, these resources can help event professionals develop a reporting and investigation system that suits their specific operation. Because left unaddressed, your next near-miss may not be.