Hazard assessments: A multipurpose communication tool for organizations
By Bhooma Raghavan
Hazard assessments are a common tool used by organizations to identify, evaluate, and control risks that arise from operational tasks.
The scope of hazard assessments can be broadened by incorporating techniques — such as training, inspections, and maintenance checklists — into the evaluation of control measures, which can be consolidated into a single document to save time and promote collaboration among stakeholders.
Why are hazard assessments valuable?
Hazard assessments are valuable because they serve as a leading indicator in any health and safety management system. Hazard assessments promote employee involvement and document changes in things like processes and post-incident actions. It is important to keep hazard assessments visible to employees by setting a reasonable timeline for review. Reviewing hazard assessments also accelerates hazard reporting in the workplace.
How do we achieve this?
The intent here is to spark thinking and create discussion while reviewing hazard assessments with employees. This is a thinking format that does not replace the hazard assessment template/form and risk matrices used in organizations. Let’s consider an example:
Task: Cashier billing items at a grocery store
Equipment/Tools: Cash register-counter, conveyor belts, cordless scanner.
Step 1: Identification of hazards and control measures. When the cashier scans items and places them in the grocery bag, the hazard is the weight of the items, and the risk is the potential strain and sprain that could result from scanning and lifting these items.
Let’s bring in the hierarchy of controls. An example of engineering controls would be the use of conveyor belts and cordless scanners, administrative controls would be ergonomic training for employees, and the use of non-slip grip gloves would be an example of personal protective equipment (PPE).
The use of multiple controls emphasizes that if one of the hazard control measures were to fail, the next hazard control measure acts as a barrier to prevent strain injuries.
Step 2: Evaluation of control measures. Let’s elaborate on the evaluation of control measures listed above by creating a simple checklist for discussion. The goal is to incorporate the following simple checklist into hazard assessment reviews at every step of the process to evaluate the effectiveness of control measures.
During the review, request employees to demonstrate and describe the following checklist to make it effective.
Preventative maintenance checklist for conveyor belt
- Is there any wear and tear noticed on the conveyor belt?
- Is there any noise noticed during operation of the conveyor belt?
- Does the ON/OFF push button on the conveyor work?
Ergonomic posture training checklist
- Are items within easy reach to minimize overreaching?
- Are anti-fatigue mats used in the area to mitigate fatigue from standing?
- Can the employee describe any three stretches and state the benefits of stretching?
Non-slip grip gloves inspection checklist
- Is there any visible wear and tear on the non-slip gloves?
- Is there any overhang around the fingers?
- Can the employee comfortably grasp items using non-slip gloves?
In conclusion, integrating simple checklists into hazard assessment reviews has three significant benefits:
- Empowering employees to evaluate the effectiveness of hazard control measures.
- Encouraging employees to report hazards when items on the checklist are non-compliant and take corrective action, which is a leading indicator for injury prevention in the workplace.
- Demonstrating to employees the outcome of hazard assessment reviews, which is to reduce injuries in this example.
How to review hazard assessments
- Make hazard assessments enjoyable by using colored balloons to indicate hazards and control measures. Place a candy in the balloon and ask employees to pop the balloon at the end of the review for a treat. This puts a smile on everyone’s face.
- Engage different stakeholders to create discussion. For example, involve a maintenance technician to demonstrate the inspection of conveyors to employees. This creates a hands-on experience for employees during the review.
- Write hazards and control measures on a whiteboard and let employees match them. Reward everyone who participates.
Strengths of using this template
- It integrates key concepts such as maintenance checklists, employee training, and PPE inspections.
- It’s tailored to the audience, making the concept of hazard assessments more approachable.
Limitations of this template:
- A mature audience may find this template too basic.
- The template could be time-consuming for multi-stage processes.
Taking a step forward to achieve goals
In conclusion, by integrating tools and techniques across organizations, we can build effective management systems that prioritize employee safety and health.
I encourage everyone to share their thoughts and ideas on what other techniques and processes they would integrate into hazard assessments to achieve injury prevention in the workplace.
Bhooma Raghavan is a health and safety advisor at DIRTT. She can be reached at email@example.com, (403) 978-3084 or visit www.dirtt.com.
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