July 8, 2023
July 8, 2023

Prevent Warehouse Accidents with “Heinrich’s Law”

How to prevent accidents and near-accidents based on Heinrich’s Law.

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Are you familiar with Heinrich's Law, but seeking clarity on its specifics? In the logistics and warehousing industry, various hazards exist. However, by implementing safety measures and manuals based on Heinrich's Law, significant accidents can be effectively prevented.

This article aims to provide a clear explanation of Heinrich's Law, along with practical strategies for accident prevention and near-accident mitigation.

What is Heinrich's Law?

Heinrich's Law is a law derived by Herbert William Heinrich, an American safety engineer who worked for Traveler’s Insurance Company in the 1930s. Commonly referred to as the 1:29:300 law, Heinrich's Law is grounded in research indicating that a single major incident or disaster caused by an individual can be preceded by as many as 29 minor incidents and 300 underlying risk factors. To elaborate further, prior to the occurrence of a significant incident or disaster, there are typically 29 incidents, along with 300 minor incidents that contribute to the occurrence of injuries.

Heinrich's Law finds application not only in the logistics industry but also across a diverse range of sectors, including companies engaged in hazardous operations as well as general industries such as construction sites and medical facilities.

Relationship between Heinrich's Law and Domino Theory

The Domino theory is a theoretical framework that explores the cause-and-effect chain of accidents. It posits that in order to prevent occupational accidents, it is crucial to eliminate the triggering factors along this chain. Heinrich's Law complements this theory by highlighting that there are always underlying risk factors preceding a major incident.

In addition, there are two categories of risk factors: behavioral factors, where individuals play a role, and situational factors, where equipment or objects contribute. Behavioral factors encompass intentional actions that compromise safety, such as employees disregarding rules due to inconvenience, which can lead to occupational accidents. On the other hand, situational factors refer to conditions that give rise to accident-prone situations, such as prolonged use of equipment without proper maintenance.

What is Bird's Law?

Bird's Law was analyzed by Frank Bird about 40 years after Heinrich's Law was issued and is based on 1.75 million accident reports that occurred at 297 companies.

Bird's Law has a ratio of 1:10:30:600, and research shows that before one major accident, there are 10 minor injuries, 30 property damage accidents and 600 near misses or incidents.

The key difference between Heinrich's Law and Bird's Law is the scope of accident analysis. Bird's Law considers a larger number of accidents and further categorizes them into minor accidents, property damage accidents, and near misses. This breakdown allows for a more comprehensive understanding of the factors leading up to a major accident. Despite this difference, the fundamental concept remains consistent for both laws, as they both emphasize the significance of studying and addressing precursor incidents to prevent major accidents.

What is Tye-Pearson's Law?

Tye-Pearson's Law, similar to Heinrich's Law, explores the same concept, presenting a ratio of incidents as 1:3:50:80:400. This ratio is derived from an analysis of 1 million cases of data from insurance companies in the United Kingdom. Tye-Pearson's Law suggests that for every major accident, there are 3 minor accidents, 50 accidents requiring first aid, 80 property damage accidents, and 400 near-misses. This analysis underscores the significance of considering a comprehensive range of incidents to gain insights into accident prevention and workplace safety.

Understanding the concept of Heinrich's Law

Heinrich's Law highlights the importance of recognizing the role of minor factors in major accidents. Rather than solely focusing on numerical predictions or attempting to forecast major disasters, Heinrich's Law encourages us to take a thoughtful approach towards accident prevention. It urges us to pay attention to the smaller underlying factors that can lead to significant incidents, emphasizing the need to address and mitigate these factors proactively. By doing so, we can effectively reduce the likelihood of major accidents occurring.

The probabilistic nature of serious accidents

Heinrich's Law does not imply that a serious accident is guaranteed to occur after a specific number of minor accidents. Instead, it emphasizes that there are various contributing factors preceding an accident.

While Heinrich's Law provides insight into the number of risk factors associated with a serious accident, it is essential to view it as a representation of coincidences, as accidents are influenced by numerous factors. To illustrate this concept, imagine rolling a dice where one side represents a major accident, 29 sides represent minor problems, and 300 sides represent risk factors. Just as we cannot predict the outcome of the dice roll, we cannot accurately predict when a serious accident will happen. It is crucial to understand that accidents result from a complex interplay of factors and causes, and it is unwise to assume that a serious accident is unlikely to occur in the near future.

Navigating probability and risk factors

As mentioned earlier, the occurrence of a workplace accident is merely a probability. The essence of Heinrich's Law is not to focus on the quantity of minor accidents or risk factors, but rather to emphasize the importance of eliminating existing issues as a means to prevent major accidents.

Heinrich's Law finds application not only in the realm of occupational accidents but also in claims handling, traffic accidents, and everyday life, indicating its wide-ranging applicability. Although claims handling may not directly align with Heinrich's Law, which primarily analyzes industrial accidents, it is often employed under the notion that a series of minor complaints could potentially lead to a significant claim in the future.

Furthermore, Bird's Law and Tye-Pearson's Law reveal that a single major accident conceals numerous unsafe behaviors and hazardous conditions, underscoring the need to address and eliminate risk factors. These risk factors encompass near accidents or "near-misses," and identifying potential issues that could trigger future accidents or disasters holds immense significance.

What is a near accident?

In the warehousing industry, a near-accident is used to describe a situation where one narrowly avoids making a mistake or suffering an injury, often resulting in a feeling of being startled or shaken. Although these incidents do not typically result in physical harm, they are considered hazardous factors according to Heinrich's Law, which identifies 300 factors that can contribute to accidents and injuries in the workplace.

The essence of Heinrich's Law is to eliminate hazardous factors and to prevent occupational accidents, it is essential to consider safety measures based on near accidents. Serious accidents or disasters can still occur despite taking adequate precautions, meaning that if a near-accident occurs, it should always be reported by employees, and management should in every case engage in safety and health management to prevent future occurrences.

When near-misses are eliminated, accidents can be prevented

To prevent occupational accidents and enhance work quality in logistics sites, it is crucial to address and eliminate near-miss incidents. For instance, if a package falls during picking operations, implementing measures to securely store packages and prevent falls can effectively prevent near accidents.

Workplace safety and health management are mandated by Occupational Safety and Health Laws in most countries and it is imperative for businesses to establish a safe working environment for employees. To prevent accidents, employees must understand the importance of near-miss incidents and proactively take measures to prevent their occurrence, while also addressing any past incidents that have taken place.

In the event of a near-accident, it is essential for the involved employee to document a written report and implement appropriate remedial measures to create an accident-free environment.

Near accident cases as learnings

To effectively manage health and safety, it is vital to establish an environment where near-misses are not disregarded. Improving the work environment necessitates understanding employees' experiences with near accidents, or close calls, which is why it is crucial to encourage reporting even minor incidents. 

Gaining insights into the types of near-accident cases that occur enables the identification of minor issues, carelessness, and insecurities in daily life and the workplace. Sharing these incidents with other employees is important to facilitate learning and prevent similar situations in the future. By fostering a culture of awareness and continuous improvement, the work environment can be enhanced for everyone's well-being.

How to prevent near accidents

As Heinrich's Law states, the elimination of risk factors and the prevention of minor injuries will prevent serious accidents and allow employees to perform their jobs in a safe environment. Furthermore, it is crucial to improve the situation rather than leaving it as an isolated incident.

In the event of a near accident, remedial measures and countermeasures must be taken promptly, which is why it is important to have a designated person in charge to ensure a smooth response. When implementing remedial measures and countermeasures, it is equally important to focus on preventing the recurrence of minor near accidents by proactively addressing the root causes and implementing preventive measures.

In this regard, communicating near-miss incidents to all employees can serve as a highly effective strategy for cultivating a culture of safety in the workplace. By doing so, all employees can gain awareness of potential risks and leverage lessons learned from past incidents to proactively avoid similar situations.

1. Create an environment that does not overlook near accidents

It is crucial to swiftly implement improvements upon detecting a near-accident. Regardless of the minor nature of a near-accident, it is essential to establish workplace rules and ensure employee awareness to encourage prompt reporting.

Heinrich's Law does not imply that accidents occur strictly based on predefined ratios. Rather, it acknowledges that numerous factors contribute to serious accidents. Similar to the unpredictability of rolling dice, the timing, and occurrence of accidents cannot be precisely foreseen. Even if an injury appears minor initially, it is vital to recognize that a serious accident could unexpectedly transpire before multiple contributing factors align.

2. Identify and eliminate situations where near accidents may occur

To prevent near-misses, it is crucial to conduct regular inspections of the warehouse, work sites, and operations manuals to identify potential problems and accidents before they arise. If any hidden near accidents (close-call situations) are discovered, immediate action should be taken to eliminate them. It is essential to create an environment where even the smallest issues are addressed and eliminated to ensure a safe working environment.

3. Make near-accident reporting mandatory

To ensure timely remediation of near accidents, it is imperative to implement a rule mandating immediate employee reporting. As an initial step, create a standardized near-accident report form that includes essential details such as the date, location of occurrence, and nature of the incident. This streamlined reporting process facilitates ease and consistency for employees when reporting near accidents, promoting prompt and accurate documentation.

4. Decide who will be in charge of reducing the occurrence of near accidents

By appointing a designated person responsible for mitigating the occurrence of near accidents, timely improvements and countermeasures can be implemented based on the submitted reports. When initiating improvements, the assigned employee should carefully review the circumstances surrounding the incidents and analyze the underlying causes to gain a comprehensive understanding of the reported cases.

During the review process, it is essential to identify the reasons behind the near-miss occurrences, whether they were a result of human oversight or environmental factors, and to objectively evaluate the situation.

Once the incidents have been thoroughly examined and the causes determined, the responsible individual should prioritize the development of improvement strategies aimed at preventing future near accidents. If necessary, they can create work procedures and checklists for others to adhere to.

Following the implementation of these measures, it is crucial to periodically verify whether the number of near accidents has decreased or been eliminated. Additionally, confirming the safety of the working environment is essential to bolster the effectiveness of the implemented improvements.

5. Visibility into near accidents

Gaining visibility into near accidents is vital because they can impact not only an individual employee but also others in the workplace. Once a near accident occurs and the underlying cause is identified, it is crucial to communicate this information to all employees through various channels such as morning meetings, conferences, or email. By sharing the incident and its root cause, everyone can be informed and collectively work towards preventing similar occurrences in the future.

For instance, posting examples of near accidents in workplaces where they are likely to occur can be an effective way to raise awareness and help reduce their frequency. Creating a poster that alerts employees to the possibility of near accidents by showcasing actual incidents can help employees recognize potential risks and take preventive measures.

Furthermore, when a near-miss is a result of an employee's careless mistake, there may be a reluctance to report it due to fear of potential repercussions. However, it is crucial to recognize that a near-miss experienced by one employee can serve as a valuable lesson to prevent similar situations for others.

In conclusion, to prioritize workplace safety, it is essential to foster an environment that encourages employees to report near-misses, regardless of whether they stem from physical or psychological factors. Making near-miss incidents visible to others enables collective learning and reinforces a culture of proactive safety awareness.


This article has provided an explanation of Heinrich's Law and highlighted the significance of preventing near-miss incidents. In summary, Heinrich's Law posits that a single serious accident involves 29 minor incidents and 300 risk factors. Accordingly, it underscores the importance of identifying and improving near-misses to proactively prevent accidents.

It is crucial to note that hazards exist in multiple facets, ranging from warehouse operations to package delivery. Therefore, when a near accident occurs, it is essential to promote a culture of prompt reporting among employees. By doing so, organizations can effectively address and mitigate the underlying issues, thereby ensuring a safer working environment.

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