The overarching purpose of safety at work is to anticipate, identify, analyze and control hazards in order to prevent and protect people from harm, damage to assets, the environment and company reputation.
It is important that the term “hazard” be properly explained and understood so that efforts at managing its effects and consequences will result in the desired success. Workplace hazard management goes beyond just knowing what hazards are, it involves classification, assessment and control of hazards. The absence of clarity in hazard management terminologies and methodology has often created confusion to workers and management alike. This article proffers solution to this problem and provides the tools and techniques for conducting hazard assessments.
The Meaning of Hazard
Hazard has been defined variously as follows:
“A potential source of harm to a worker”
Source: CSAZ1002, Occupational health and safety – hazard identification and elimination risk assessment and control (CSA – Canadian Standard Association)
“A situation, condition or thing that may be dangerous to the safety or health of workers”
Source: Alberta Occupational Health Safety Code, Part 1 – Definitions and General Application
“The potential for harm. Hazards include all aspects of technology and activity that produce risk. Hazards include the characterization of things (equipment, dust) and the actions or inactions of people”
Source: Accident Prevention Manual for Business and Industry Engineering and Technology, 13th Edition. Philip E. Hogan, John F. Montgomery, James T. O’Reilly.
“A hazard can be anything – whether work materials, equipment, work methods or practices – that has the potential to cause harm”.
Source: European Agency for Health and Safety at Work.
“A hazard is any source of potential damage, harm or adverse health effects on something or someone under certain conditions at work. Basically, a hazard can cause harm or adverse effects (to individuals as health effects or to organizations as property or equipment losses)”.
Source: Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety (CCOHS)
The consistent message from these definitions is that a hazard has two main characteristics:
· It can be anything such as: a situation, equipment, behavior, condition, substance, process, energy source, practice or material.
· It has a potential to cause harm or damage.
This knowledge not only helps in understanding what a hazard is, it also helps in its control.
Hazard Management Program
In setting up a hazard management program, a company can do it correctly by this three-step approach:
· Hazard Identification
· Hazard Analysis
· Hazard Control
Literature review shows a lack of consensus and consistency in the categorization of these steps. Some describe the whole process as “hazard assessment,” while others call it “hazard and risk assessment” or “hazard identification, assessment and control”. Whatever the name chosen, the output should remain the same – an inventory and description of all the hazards in the workplace, their sources, along with their rating/ranking and recommended control measures.
Hazard identification is a process of systematically reviewing the workplace and noting what can cause harm or damage. There are a number of tools and techniques used in achieving this, some of which are:
· List of the roles and positions in the company (obtained from the organization chart),
· List of the task(s) for each position/discipline (obtained from the organization chart and job/task analysis report),
· Hazard identification (HAZID) – a structured brainstorming technique,
· Use of hazard identification checklists,
· Use of WHMIS (work place hazardous material information system) classification,
· Use of TDG (transportation of dangerous goods) classification,
· HAZOP (hazard operability) study,
· SAFOP (electrical safety and operability),
· Design reviews,
· PHA (process hazard analysis)
· JHA (job hazard analysis),
· Hazard Reporting (also called unsafe act/unsafe condition auditing)
· Incident reports,
· Safety meetings,
· Pre-job plans and planning exercises,
· Safe work permits,
· Inspection reports,
· Safety meeting (concerns expressed by workers)
· Equipment operation manuals,
· PHA (Preliminary Hazard Analysis),
· FMEA (failure mode and effects analysis),
· What if analysis.
It should be noted that the selection of the appropriate tool or technique for identifying hazards is dependent on the phase of the project or maturity of the operation, type and nature of the facility and training/experience of the persons involved in the exercise. Whereas there are a various methods, tools and techniques for identifying hazards, it is always important that those selected are documented as evidence that the company has been thorough in conducting this exercise.
Hazard analysis involves a process of reviewing the hazards that have been identified to determine the potential and extent to which they can result in undesirable effects. The technique for this process is called: risk assessment. Note that this is also called hazard assessment.
A risk is simply the chance that a hazard will cause an undesirable effect and the extent of the effect. A risk assessment is the process of evaluating workplace hazards to determine risks to: workers’ safety and health, environment and equipment damage.
There are few if any tools and techniques that are limited solely to the identification of hazards. Most of the tools and techniques include assessment as well as identification and vice-versa.
Key specific risk (hazard) assessment tools include:
· Risk assessment matrix (featuring probability or likelihood and severity or consequence),
· HRA (health risk assessment),
· EA (environmental assessment) and EIA (environmental impact assessment),
· SIA (social impact assessment),
· HFA (human factors analysis),
· PEM (physical effects modeling),
· FLHA (field level hazard assessment),
· FEA (fire and explosion analysis),
· QRA (quantitative risk assessment).
Just as it is with any tool or technique, the quality of results obtained will largely be a factor of the competency of the user. Therefore, it is important that where there is no in-house expertise, the services of outside trained personnel should be sought to conduct or facilitate the conduction of these assessments.
Once identified and analyzed, risks must be controlled to reduce the potential of the hazard to cause undesirable effects. The tools for controlling hazards include:
· Use of engineering controls
· Use of administrative controls
· Use of personal protective equipment (PPE)
It is the responsibility of management to ensure that appropriate risk control measures are in place, effective and meet all legal requirements and industry standards.
As stated previously, training and experience will be required in all the steps involved in a hazard management program. The hazard assessment process must be documented and the information kept active throughout the life of the organization in cognizance of changes in equipment, people, work environment, work methods, industry standard and legislation.