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#1 Posted : 12 August 2019 15:22:50(UTC)
Rank: Forum user


I received a disturbing phone call from our MD that we need to stop recording Near Misses. My response was astonishment to say the least & a little concerned. To explain matters, here is a small paragrapth taken from an email sent to me to explain further -

It was discussed at
the last quarterly  meeting for MDs that the legal department of some big
 companies were discouraging companies from circulating details of near
misses to try and help other companies to avoid the same problem. This was
because the HSE had started to prosecute and fine companies base on a fixed
sliding scale of fines based on the potential injury that can be caused by an
incident and the turnover of the company. One big company said that they had
been fined £5M for an accident that resulted in a broken arm but which had the
potential to kill and thought themselves lucky. Even a near miss has the
potential to cause injury and therefore by publicising them you give the HSE documented grounds to  prosecute and almost everything that happens on site has the potential to kill someone."

I have looked into this but found nothing On-Line  / HSE Website etc.

Technically it may be suggested that a Breach of Duty has
caused the Near Miss – Example if a Scaffolder fails to implement Double
Handrails then that is a Near Miss as it has the potential to cause harm. The
Breach of Duty is that the Scaffolder Breached the Working at Height Regs by
failure to provide adequate Edge Protection.

I apprecaite if anyone can confirm this or provide previous Case Examples.


Edited by user 12 August 2019 15:28:17(UTC)  | Reason: spelling

#2 Posted : 12 August 2019 16:20:30(UTC)
Rank: Forum user

If someone broke their arm then thats not a Near Miss - Its a Major RIDDOR. 5 Million fine seems a lot and I think someone is just out to scare.

I would imagine the Near Miss example of a scaffolder is a HSE inspector visiting a site and finding it.

#3 Posted : 12 August 2019 16:25:23(UTC)
Rank: Forum user

Forgot to say certain Near Misses are reportable under RIDDOR : https://www.hse.gov.uk/riddor/dangerous-occurences.htm

#4 Posted : 12 August 2019 16:26:00(UTC)
Rank: Super forum user

Your MD has been given incorrect information with someone confusing the 2017 sentencing guidelines in relation to prosecution with consideration the act being prosecuted would be a near miss in comparison to a potential fatality.

I have found these legal departments to be reactive rather than proactive
thanks 1 user thanked Roundtuit for this useful post.
shaunosborne on 14/08/2019(UTC)
#5 Posted : 13 August 2019 08:00:56(UTC)
Rank: Super forum user

A company can be prosecuted for purely creating an uncontrolled risk. The seminal case if I remember correctly was R v Board of Trustees of the Science Museum 1993 pursuant to S3(1) HSWA. However, it is very rare. 

Under the SC 2017 guidelines they can take into account the risk whch has been created and not just the outcome when handing out a sentence. But again the risk or potential outcome will only be a part of the overall equation.  

thanks 4 users thanked RayRapp for this useful post.
O'Donnell54548 on 13/08/2019(UTC), A Kurdziel on 13/08/2019(UTC), pastapickles on 13/08/2019(UTC), stevedm on 14/08/2019(UTC)
#6 Posted : 13 August 2019 09:22:35(UTC)
Rank: Super forum user

If I were a visiting HSE inspector and I found that the organisation had no recorded near misses I would be somewhat suspicious about the monitoring standards in that workplace!

How else will you know - and be able to demonstrae - that the near misses have been identified and action taken if this is not recorded

thanks 3 users thanked chris.packham for this useful post.
Natasha.Graham on 13/08/2019(UTC), A Kurdziel on 13/08/2019(UTC), stevedm on 14/08/2019(UTC)
#7 Posted : 13 August 2019 13:19:49(UTC)
Rank: Super forum user

This to me is a very important question and one that cannot be easily dismissed.

Would HSE look at your admissions of guilt for near misses, ones that you then failed to control adequately going forward and were still clearly visible? Mmmm I wonder, you know I think they might get their little pad on notices out!!!!

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A Kurdziel on 13/08/2019(UTC)
#8 Posted : 13 August 2019 14:00:05(UTC)
Rank: Super forum user

I went to a legal seminar a while back about the consequences of the new sentencing guidelines. There is a risk of a massive fine for any material breach. It is the size of the fine that is the risk and consequences for the business.

Through trying to do best practice you could leave the company open to a massive fine following a near miss (none RIDDOR) by providing the required proof or admission to the HSE. I have heard of a prosecution following enforcement notice when the company complied in good time.

There appears now to be a conflict between best H&S practice and legal advice. I heard one lawyer say just ensure compliance, do you legal minimum duty and no more.

I believe you have to record and investigate near misses but perhaps the findings are now confidential with caveats and only disclosed under section 20 powers. However it is for the lawyers to draft the caveats.

The other consequence was companies (and individuals) starting to mount defences, arguing mitigation and appealing fines/sentences which has come as a shock to the HSE! Their legal fees have apparently substantially increased.  Recording and investigating near misses however is a mitigation against a larger fine.

I also believe there has been a sea change in the HSE which came with budgets cuts. They are withdrawing from engagement and concentrating on enforcement. I have started to see companies be more guarded with the HSE and I would not freely disclose anything to them.

#9 Posted : 13 August 2019 14:26:51(UTC)
Rank: Super forum user

Suppose you did not record near misses. You then had an accident that was investigated by the HSE. Their investigation revealed that there had been near misses prior to and similar to the one that caused the accident. However, you  have no record of these nor of any action you took at the time to resolve the issue. Where does that leave you? I think the word that comes to mind is 'transparency; something we expect of others, of course, but what about ourselves?

thanks 2 users thanked chris.packham for this useful post.
A Kurdziel on 13/08/2019(UTC), Dave5705 on 14/08/2019(UTC)
A Kurdziel  
#10 Posted : 13 August 2019 14:59:27(UTC)
Rank: Super forum user
A Kurdziel

The HSE have published a policy document(HSG41) describing how they enforce the law. They will prosecute only if it is in the public interest which means:

  • death was a result of a breach of the legislation;
  • the gravity of an alleged offence, taken together with the seriousness of any actual or potential harm, or the general record and approach of the offender warrants it;
  • there has been reckless disregard of health and safety requirements;
  • there have been repeated breaches which give rise to significant risk, or persistent and significant poor compliance;
  • work has been carried out without, or in serious non-compliance with, an appropriate licence or safety case;
  • a duty holder’s standard of managing health and safety is found to be far below what is required by health and safety law and to be giving rise to significant risk;
  • there has been a failure to comply with an improvement or prohibition notice; or there has been a repetition of a breach that was subject to a simple caution;
  • false information has been supplied wilfully, or there has been an intent to deceive, in relation to a matter which gives rise to significant risk;
  • Inspectors have been intentionally obstructed in the lawful course of their duties.

This is quite a high bar for a prosecution. Nowhere does it imply that the HSE are looking to prosecute for ‘near misses’, however you define a ‘near miss ’.  The HSE understand that no Health and Safety system is perfect and they expect near misses to occur. What they are interested in how an organisation manages those near misses and what it learns from them.  If an organisation kept recording similar near misses and did nothing about them other than recording them then the HSE might intervene. The idea that you should cover up ‘near misses’ is contrary  to the spirit if not the letter of current Health and Safety practice.

If this was the optimum solution to avoiding prosecutions I would suggest that you stop recording all accidents and just get rid of Health and Safety altogether on the grounds that if you keep a low profile you won’t get noticed and will probably get away with it.


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Dave5705 on 14/08/2019(UTC), shaunosborne on 14/08/2019(UTC)
#11 Posted : 14 August 2019 13:32:51(UTC)
Rank: Forum user

As I think someone mentioned above, this is probably a case of reading too much into the sentencing guidelines. It's true that the fine may be assessed on the basis of the potential for harm rather than the actual harm, but that's for sentencing, i.e. in this hypothetical you are already being prosecuted. There would have to already be a sufficient breach to get you to that point.

So if you acccidentally release a large quantity of toxic gas into the employee break room, but by chance there was nobody in there (whether or not you consider that a 'near miss'), you don't get a lower fine by virtue of sheer luck.

I would guess the only time recording your near misses is inadvisable is if you don't plan on acting on any of the reports.

thanks 1 user thanked shaunosborne for this useful post.
A Kurdziel on 14/08/2019(UTC)
#12 Posted : 22 August 2019 20:08:20(UTC)
Rank: Forum user

You must understand that the HSE's intention to prosecute is NOT determined by an event type (e.g. accident, incident, near miss). Neither is the HSE's powers to prosecute limited to RIDDOR related incidents.

For prosecution purposes, the offence is the "risk of creating harm". Therefore, in real terms, the threshold for the HSE to bring prosecutions is low. So technically speaking no accident, incident or near miss has to even happen to bring a prosecution. All they need to prove is that you have not managed a hazard thus creating a risk of harm.

You should not stop reporting near misses on the basis of such arbitary information. Any legal firm worth their money would not issue such nonsensical advice. And as some others have already mentioned, a broken arm is not a near miss! It has result in injury and therefore it is an accident.

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