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Effective Safety Planning Part 3: Workplace Hazard Assessment

Posted on 25 November 2015 by cradmin

risk_assessment-780x780Over the past few months, we have been exploring how to create an effective safety plan for you and your employees. According to the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), developing and executing a comprehensive safety plan requires four key steps. Our last Health & Safety Watch focused on the first of these steps, management commitment and employee involvement, and this month, we delve into the second step of OSHA’s four-point workplace program: workplace hazard assessment.

For further information on job safety analysis, this article from Professional Safety, pub shed by the American Society of Safety Engineers, may help you get on track. In addition, OSHA Publication 3071 Job Hazard Analysis is one of the most useful resources on the subject.

Defining Job Hazards

OSHA defines a hazard as anything that has the potential to cause harm. Hazards are most often associated with job activities and conditions that, if left unchecked, may cause an injury, illness or even death. Before hazards can be abated, however, they must first be identified, acknowledged and defined.

The recommended method for discovering and categorizing workplace hazards is to conduct a series of job hazard analyses (JHAs). This standard practice uses job tasks to pinpoint safety hazards and where they could occur. This takes into account all of the factors that are involved in workplace injuries: employees, tasks, tools and conditions. Once hazards have been clearly identified, steps can be taken to eliminate or reduce the risk of injury or illness.

Common Hazards at Fabrication Shops

  • Toxic, flammable and corrosive chemicals
  • Electrical shocks and fires
  • Ergonomic strains and sprains
  • Falls
  • Heat, smoke and fire
  • Machinery and equipment with moving parts
  • Noise
  • Being struck or struck against objects

Steps to a Successful JHA

A successful job hazard analysis includes five general steps:

  1. Get everyone involved. Employee involvement is crucial to a successful JHA because each person has a unique perspective, understanding and way of performing his or her assigned tasks. This will help prevent oversights and give employees a chance to think about their own safety.
  1. Review the company’s accident history. You can discover a great many hazards simply by taking a look at accidents that have occurred in the past. If detailed reports have been kept, you will also learn what the employees were doing at the time and how the accidents happened. If hazard controls had been present, accidents are indicators that
  1. Perform a preliminary job review. Call in each JHA OSHA Advisor 7employee for a safety interview, asking them about the hazards they already know exist. Talk about ways each hazard can be eliminated, and if it can’t be eliminated, how it can be controlled. If any of these hazards pose an immediate threat, employees should not perform any associated tasks until steps have been taken to improve their safety. This is a great way to show how committed you are to workplace safety.
  1. Outline the steps and hazards for every task. Just about every job in a fabrication shop can be broken down into tasks, and each task can be broken down into steps. Rather than relying on each employee to write down the tasks and steps, they should be observed by a third party. There is no need to get overly detailed with long lists of steps, but be meticulous enough to ensure that all of the JHA OSHA AdvisorX 7basic steps are included. The next time the task has to be done, have someone else complete it to see if anything is done differently. You will also want to review the steps with employees so that nothing is accidentally omitted.
  1. List and prioritize all hazards. Make a list of all the hazards you have found in descending order of consequences and likelihood. The hazards that are most likely to occur and have the most severe consequences should be made a priority and eliminated or abated before unlikely hazards with mild consequences.

For a sample JHA form, click on the image to the right.

How to Identify and Analyze Hazards

When identifying and analyzing workplace hazards, you must be able to answer all of the following questions:

  • What is the hazard?
  • Where can it occur?
  • Who could be affected?
  • What are the consequences of the hazard?
  • How could the hazard occur?
  • What could trigger the hazard?
  • What are the factors that contribute to the hazard?
  • What are the chances the hazard will occur?

The answers to these questions should be documented precisely and consistently.

Tips for a Worksite Analysis

  • Perform routine safety inspections.
  • Have a comprehensive survey done by a third-party safety or compliance organization.
  • Create a system for conducting a change analysis when tasks change or new tasks are added.
  • Seek professional safety advice for new equipment and procedures.
  • Let employees know that you want them to report unsafe or dangerous conditions immediately.
  • Conduct a thorough investigation when an accident occurs.

Bonus Tip

If you are unsure whether you are in compliance with all federal and state health and safety laws, contact the OSHA office in your state or the federal OSHA office to schedule a free consultation.

If an OSHA compliance officer visits while you are scheduled for or in the midst of a consultation, he or she is legally bound to wait until you have had a chance to learn about and remedy any potential infractions. However, this does not work in reverse. If you are first visited by an OSHA officer, you cannot schedule a consultation until after the case has been closed.

Next month, we continue our six-part series in Health &Safety Watch with Effective Safety Planning Part 4: Hazard Prevention and Control.

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