More robust hazard assessments could help your workplace demonstrate due diligence in the face of regulatory and legislative changes, says Sandy Ash, Manager of OHS Management System Integration for WSPS.
While it's essential to stay on top of changes, "a good business understands all of its risk exposures and demonstrates how it manages them," says Sandy. "This is a key method for protecting your business and demonstrating that you're doing everything possible to keep workers safe."
But some organizations really struggle with hazard assessments. In Sandy's experience, they may not understand how extensive the assessments need to be, or how to do them well. If your workplace conducts its own hazard assessments, Sandy offers five tips for making them more robust below. He also discusses when bringing in a third party may be advantageous.
Sandy explains there are three basic steps to a hazard assessment:
1) understand what the business does,
2) understand what can go wrong - assess or estimate the level of risk associated with that activity, and
3) determine what we are doing, and what might we do better, to mitigate that risk.
5 ways to make your hazard assessments more robust
- Use a team approach. "Get as many perspectives as possible," says Sandy. If you're assessing machine hazards, ask an expert in machine safety, an operator, a joint health and safety committee member, and even someone unfamiliar with the machine. "They may ask a question that's revealing and insightful through simply trying to understand the process."
- Make it a living, breathing document. "It may be a fact that you completed the hazard assessment, but if you haven't turned it into action, you're going to have a problem proving due diligence. Your risk assessments should inform your safety programs, your procedures and your training."
- "Feed it data," says Sandy. "Every time you have an accident or a near miss, check back. 'Is this something we assumed was a low risk, but we now know to be a high risk?' Have your hazard assessment team look at it, find out what it really means, and add it to your registry of hazards."
- Ensure you use the same scoring criteria for assessing each hazard. "You need to be able to compare apples to apples when it comes to severity, frequency and likelihood so you can prioritize your hazards and plan mitigation accordingly."
- Review and update regularly. New equipment or processes, newly identified hazards or near misses can affect your hazard assessment. Revisit, and update policies and procedures accordingly to protect workers.
When to use a third party
There are several indications that you may need a professional's help with your hazard assessments, says Sandy. "The regulator's been in and left orders, there are still lots of incidents, or there is an increase in hazard reports. If you encounter a hazard that's not already in your registry, what else may you be missing?"
How WSPS can help
- Monitor regulatory and legislative changes with our Occupational Health & Safety Legislation Tracker. You can also sign up for regular updates.
- Our consultants can carry out preliminary or detailed hazard assessments, recommend controls, and help you develop policies and programs for specific hazards in your workplace. Speak to our on-duty consultant at 1-877-494-WSPS (9777).
- Also check out our extensive online library of hazard assessment resources, including classroom and onsite training, eCourses, and free downloads.