An employee using a GFCI-protected extension cord had to push the reset several times to get the cord to work. The cord reset finally held, and he finished his task and returned the cord to the tool room. A few days later, another employee – using the same GFCI-protected cord – noticed the GFCI breaker on the cord was warm. He also had trouble keeping the cord from tripping when he plugged it in. The cord reset finally held, and the employee finished his task and returned the cord to the tool room. Within days, a third employee selected that same defective cord from the tool room. When he plugged it in, the GFCI module on the cord flashed in his hand. He received a shock and flash burn, resulting in his death.
Few people would imagine that an extension cord reset issue could rise to the level of a fatal event, but that precisely illustrates the value of a strong near-miss and good-catch program. Unusual events prompt reports and out-of-service orders, maintenance or repairs, preventing potential incidents.
“Near Miss” and “Good Catch” Defined
Before we go any further, let’s define “near miss” and “good catch.”
A near miss is an event during which no property is damaged and no personal injury is sustained, but where – given a slight shift in time or position – damage and/or injury easily could have occurred. For example, let’s say an employee grabs a 3/4-inch drill motor with a paint-mixer blade from a gang box. Previously, someone had removed and bypassed the switch. When the employee plugs it in, the drill motor starts unexpectedly, and the mixing blade causes the unattended drill motor to bounce wildly around the work-area floor.
A good catch is recognition by an employee of a condition or situation that had the potential to cause an incident but did not cause one due to corrective action and/or timely intervention by the employee. For example, a good catch occurs when an employee inspects a piece of electrical equipment prior to use and notices damage or an unusual condition, which prompts him to immediately tag the equipment out of service.