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Using Near Miss Reporting in Security

Near Miss Reporting

Near-miss reporting is widely used in accident prevention and safety in industries such as manufacturing, transportation, aviation, and healthcare. Near miss reporting is based on the premise that for every serious injury accident that occurs, there were many, many more "near misses" where there was the potential for an accident to occur, but nothing happened. By reporting, investigating and analyzing these near misses, the number of future accidents can be greatly reduced.

What is a "Near Miss"?

A near miss is an unplanned event that did not result in an accident or injury, but had the potential to do so. Only a lucky interruption in the chain of events prevented a tragic incident from occurring. Near-misses are also sometimes call "close-calls", "narrow escapes", and "lucky breaks".

Examples of near misses include:

  • An employee uses a ladder that is too short and stands on the top rung and reaches for something that is too far away. The employee falls off the ladder, but lands on a stack of rubber mats. The employee is badly shaken but uninjured.

  • A truck is backing up without a warning device and the driver is not looking behind him. A worker is nearly struck but manages to jump out of the way just in time.

  • A medical assistant mixes up medications on her cart and is about to give a patient the wrong medication. A nurse notices the mistake and stops the medication from being administered just in time.

  • A trailer is parked at a warehouse loading dock, but it's wheels have not been properly chocked. When a forklift drives in to the trailer, the trailer rolls away from the dock about 10'. Had this occurred when the forklift was entering or leaving the trailer, a serious injury accident could have been the result.


Why is the Reporting of Near Misses Important?

Some safety experts estimate that for every 1 serious injury accident that occurs, there are 29 minor injury accidents, and over 300 near misses. Because of the large number of near misses that occur relative to the number of accidents that occur, they are a rich source of data for identifying and analyzing the causes of accidents. Organizations that diligently report,investigate, and analyze near misses are often able to improve safety and greatly reduce the number of accidents that occur.

How Can Near Miss Reporting be Applied to Security?

It is our opinion that the basic principles of near miss reporting can be directly applied to security. Like in safety, near misses occur almost daily in almost every security program. For every serious loss or security incident, there are many, many more near misses where a loss could have occurred but didn't.

Examples of near misses in security include:

  • A receptionist fails to follow proper security procedures and inadvertently lets an unauthorized person into a highly-secure area of the building. As it turns out, this person was selling magazine subscriptions and caused no harm to the facility.

  • A laptop containing highly sensitive employee information is left overnight in an unsecured meeting room. The laptop is discovered the following morning by a janitor and is turned in to the Security Department.

  • A box of high-value merchandise is found stacked next to an outdoor trash dumpster by a warehouse manager. It is obvious that an employee placed this merchandise here with the intent of stealing it and planned to return after work to pick it up. The merchandise is returned to the warehouse before it can be taken.

  • The time schedules on the access control system were incorrectly programmed, causing the exterior doors to unlock several hours before the start of the business day. This condition persisted for several days until it was finally noticed by an early-arriving employee. No one appears to have improperly entered the building during this time.


In each of these cases, there was the potential for a loss to occur, but due to fortunate circumstances, the loss didn't happen. These are security "near misses". We estimate that for every 1 serious security incident, there are 10 minor security incidents, and as many as 100 security near misses.

Understanding what happened and why in each near miss situation is important in order to identify vulnerabilities in your security program and to take action to correct them. When major security losses or injuries do occur, employees often look back in hindsight and see that there were many warning signs (near misses) that this type of event was likely to happen, but these signs were ignored.

Most organizations have some form of security incident reporting system in place, but these systems don't always do a good job of tracking near misses. Often, if nothing is actually lost or stolen, an incident report is not filed. Employees often don't want to take the time to fill out an incident report if they can avoid it, and sometimes fear that reporting a near miss will get them or someone else in trouble.

We recommend that existing security reporting systems be expanded to track near misses, and that employees at all levels in the organization be encouraged to report security near misses. The following is recommended:

  • An environment should be created where everyone openly shares their thoughts on keeping the facility safe and secure. Every employee has a role to play in the security and loss prevention process. Employees should be educated on the value of reporting security near misses and understand the important role that they play in the reporting process.

  • A simplified process for reporting security near misses should be developed so that they can reported quickly and easily.

  • Employees should be able to report security near misses without the fear of disciplinary action. A mechanism to report near misses anonymously should also be provided.

  • Every security near miss should be investigated to determine its root cause and to identify weaknesses in the system that allowed the event to occur.

  • Use the information gathered from investigating security near misses to improve security systems and procedures.

  • Openly share the lessons learned from security near misses with all employees. When a new system or procedure is put into place as a result of a near miss, explain both the vulnerability uncovered and how the new system or procedure is expected to help correct this vulnerability.

Please contact us if you have any questions or need help in creating a security incident reporting system for your facility.

Also see related article: Security Incident Reporting System

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