The Health and Safety Executive defines a near miss ‘as an event that, while not causing harm, has the potential to cause injury or ill health’. In plain English, a near miss is a ‘close call’ that did not harm anyone but could have. In other words, near misses are incidents in which someone might have been hurt if the circumstances had only been slightly different.

Deciding on whether incidents had the potential to harm depends on your viewpoint. Narrowing the scope in which near misses can be reported means that employers may miss out on the value of investigating the near miss. Members are encouraged to report near misses. The information gleaned from these ‘almost’ incidents can be used to review Risk Assessments and Safe Systems of Work and prevent accidents/incidents before they occur. Examples of near misses could include;

A prisoner threatening to assault you.

A member of staff tripping over an unmarked step and falls without injury.

A member of staff almost falls due to a poorly lit area.

In addition to internal reporting, near misses classed as “dangerous occurrences” must be reported to the HSE under the Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations (RIDDOR) 2013. The HSE encourages internal recording and investigation of “non-reportable near misses”.

In addition to the obvious benefits of preventing incidents/accidents occurring, near miss reporting assists members in Legal Claims and proving that injuries or stress were foreseeable. In respect of foreseeability there must be evidence that the employer was aware that a member was at risk of suffering an injury/stress because of any issue.

Please bring this Circular to the attention of all members.

Thank you for your continued support.


Yours sincerely

Deputy General Secretary

Representing over 30,000 Prison, Correctional and Secure Psychiatric Workers, the POA is the largest UK Union in this sector, able to trace its roots back more than 100 years.