Near Miss Reporting
Near Miss reporting is a regular part of Health & Safety procedures for organisations. An investigation following a Near Miss incident will often highlight an issue that needs to be repaired or replaced due to a Health and Safety risk.
Regular Health & Safety meetings will include Near Miss incidents as a regular item on the agenda. The incident will be discussed, and actions taken, and responsibilities will be noted on the minutes.
In the Hospitality Sector however, Near Miss incidents are often ignored and are not taken seriously. HASUK (Hospitality Allergen Support UK) have produced a report to highlight Near Miss Reporting in the Hospitality Sector and for the Food Hypersensitive [FHS] Customer.
A project was launched in 2022 with the support of a final year Hospitality Degree student to research this topic. A disappointing response from Food Business Operators [FBOs] to the Hospitality Survey confirms that this topic is not high on the agenda for the sector. Some responses confirmed that they have a formal process and responses indicated that often there is no procedure in place. If the venue has a procedure in place, often the consumer was not informed of the outcome of any investigation.
FHS customers were often confused as to where to report their incident too, their Local Authority – Environmental Health Officers [EHO] or Trading Standards [TS], the venue, or the Food Standards Agency [FSA]. There is no clear information and often the customer walks away without reporting the issue. The impact of this will be that the customer will have a negative view of the venue and will write poor reviews on social media and review sites. If a complaint is taken seriously and procedures are improved as a result, the customer may return to the venue and will feel more positive about the experience.
HASUK held focus groups with several FHS consumers who had responded to the survey. They had all experienced Near Miss incidents and felt that generally they received a poor response when they had reported an issue. Responses varied from a “Flippant and Uncaring attitude” to their complaint, or they did not receive any response. Occasionally a voucher had been offered as an apology to the customer, but after their previous experience at the venue, they did not feel like returning. It would be better to provide an update on the investigation and to confirm that procedures had changed as a result. Once the changes had been implemented then the customer can return for a more positive experience.
A focus group was also held with EHO’s who confirmed that they would like to see a Near Miss reporting process in place. The view from the group was that they knew that Near Miss incidents happen and they would rather see them logged, investigated, and changes noted down. They would not reduce the points on the FHRS scheme if managed appropriately.
HASUK would like to see Near Miss Reporting template included in the FSA’s Safer Food Better Business [SFBB] or FSMS/ HACCP systems. We believe that this should be a regular part of Food Safety. A review of “what went wrong” will highlight gaps in the procedures and this will provide the opportunity to review and improve the process. It is much better to review a Near Miss than investigate a full enquiry if a customer has an allergic reaction after eating a meal.
It is known that before Natasha Ednan-Laperouse purchased and ate the baguette from Pret a Manger, it was reported by the coroner that 6/7 families had reported that there was an issue because they didn’t know that the baguette dough contained sesame seeds, or difficulties understanding the labelling. If they had a formal procedure to record complaints the fatal incident with Natasha may have been avoided.
The Near Miss report will be ready to share in September and we will be delighted to provide more information.
Jacqui McPeake and Caroline Benjamin
Please contact Jacqui McPeake via firstname.lastname@example.org or Caroline Benjamin at email@example.com
HASUK is a collaboration between Caroline Benjamin of Food Allergy Aware and Jacqui McPeake JACS Ltd. HASUK offer Allergen training, audits, allergen consulting across the UK.