This always seems to be a make work project for most people but the hazard identification as simple as it is does give you some good information. Most of us operate knowing that we will see the danger and therefore be able to avoid it. That is true, if you have experience and are aware of EVERYTHING around you, but how about the person just starting? They may look right at the hazardous bits and not understand how dangerous it really is.
Creating a list of hazards gives you a start on what you need to tell that inexperienced person who is just starting. That’s the beginning of an instruction or orientation list. Going further, by making that list you are now examining the hazards in your workplace and thinking about how you control them. You wouldn’t be the first person to say, “Why are we still doing things this way?
One more benefit if the hazard identification is to give written proof that you have really looked at what you are doing and have made real effort to deal with the hazards before they become accidents.
A hazard is anything that could cause injury or property damage. To be practical you are looking for things that are real hazards in your workplace for example falling from the load while tarping, or being struck by moving equipment in the yard.
The best way to document the hazards in your operation is to use a job safety analysis.
A job safety analysis (JSA) is a formal way of prioritizing hazards and developing controls. By carrying out a JSA you be certain that hazards are prioritized ensuring hazards with the greatest risk to employees’ safety are mitigated. Documenting the JSA also ensures a method to review the effectiveness of controls on a regular basis.
One common mistake is not engaging the frontline staff in the process. Employees doing the job are experts so it is important to use them. Another common mistake getting too specific with hazards. Look at real hazards and try to be practical. You are not looking for death by paper cut hazards but if it could cause a time loss, it needs to be recorded.
A risk assessment is the process of identifying hazards related to an activity that could cause injuries or property damage. The whole process involves identifying hazards, determining risk levels, and developing control measures.
Using the hierarchy of controls is just a fancy way of saying, select the most effective control first, and there are good reasons for using it. The most common response people have when dealing with a workplace hazard is to purchase and use Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) such as gloves, hardhats, or goggles. The problem with these is they do nothing to reduce the hazard and should they fail there will be an injury.
It is far more effective to reduce the level of hazard and with that in mind you can see how this ordered list works.
- Eliminate the hazard. Great idea! No hazard, no problem, but can any of us stop work and stay in business. While elimination is the most effective it is usually the least possible to implement.
- Substitute something less hazardous. This would be replacing a highly toxic or flammable solvent with one that has much lower hazardous properties. By reducing the hazard at the source, we improve the overall safety of the workplace.
- Engineered controls. These are things like the bolted on guard around a gear train or belt drive. They don’t need any thought by workers but keep the hazard contained and unable to cause damage or injury.
- Administrative controls. Workplace rules and safe work procedures are good examples. They are very effective controls and often the only practical solution. Unfortunately, they are also seriously flawed in that they require worker participation every time for them to work correctly. Any time we depend on people to use the correct procedure as our only control, we will have lapses which do result in accidents.
- Personal Protective Equipment or PPE. As stated above this is the last resort not the first. PPE should only be used when there is a hazard that cannot be totally dealt with by a more effective method.
Proper preparation starts well before an incident occurs with assembling a team and the materials to enable them to collect information about any incident. The team needs training in how to perform the incident investigation and a clear understanding of the purpose of the investigation. Of course if there is an incident you must make the team available to do the investigation.
Probably the worst error is when the investigation assigns blame to individuals rather than looking for root causes. This is short sighted and prevents any meaningful corrections from being made. The second type of mistake is when investigation is carried out without being documented. Without records you have no proof of your safety activities.
The third type of mistake is when recommendations are not developed from the findings. Why do the investigation if you are not going to learn from it?
And finally, the last type of mistake is when results of investigation are not communicated to staff. When you have made changes you also need to let everyone know what they are so they can be part of the new safer system.