When your employees arrive at work in the morning, are they aware of the hazards around them? Do they know what controls are in place? If not, do they know where to get this information?
According to the Occupational Health and Safety Act, employers are responsible for providing supervisors with the information and resources necessary to create a safe work environment. In turn, supervisors must communicate the hazards to employees and ensure they understand how to protect themselves. Lastly, workers are expected to follow the procedures put in place to control those hazards. This is known as the Internal Responsibility System (IRS), which has been proven to be a very effective method of building safe workplaces.
"If employers are ultimately responsible for communicating the hazards to workers, how are they going to do that without completing a hazard assessment?" says Jay Remsik, a Health and Safety Consultant with WSPS. Before you can have a functional IRS, you need to identify the hazards.
Use the RACE model as your guide
RACE (Recognize, Assess, Control, Evaluate) is an acronym often used when explaining how to conduct a hazard assessment. It is the method outlined in the WSIB's Hazard Assessment Tool.
- Step 1: recognize the hazards. "Hazards can be grouped into the following six categories: physical, biological, chemical, psychosocial, safety, and musculoskeletal disorders," explains Jay. "You have to look at each role within your organization through the lens of these six categories." For example, an industrial cleaner may be exposed to a hazardous chemical. You would recognize this hazard when looking at the responsibilities of that particular role through the chemical lens.
- Step 2: assess the risk level of each hazard. When assessing the risk level, probability and severity are the main factors to consider. "You look at how likely it is that a particular hazard will cause illness or injury, and then you look at how severe the outcome would be," says Jay. Using the same example as we used above, you may conclude that the probability of exposure to the hazardous chemical is quite low. However, in the event that the industrial cleaner is exposed, it could cause severe injury or illness. Use the Risk Evaluation Chart (page 9) to determine the risk level.
- Step 3: control the hazards - especially those that were assessed as high risk. If you cannot eliminate the hazard completely, consider the most practical administrative or engineering controls. Again, using the previous example, you could substitute the hazardous chemical for a safer one. You could also change the process or personal protective equipment used to limit the cleaner’s exposure.
- Step 4: evaluate the effectiveness of the controls. Shortly after implementing controls, use the same Risk Evaluation Chart to reassess the risk level of each hazard. The expectation is that it moves from high to moderate or low with the controls in place. At a minimum, it’s recommended to reassess hazards on an annual basis. However, it’s also important to do it when materials and processes change.
Once you have completed the RACE method of hazard assessment, you must communicate the results to your workers. "It's not about doing this so the information sits in a document somewhere. It’s about using this information to reduce the probability of a fatality," says Jay. This means you need to communicate the information to your employees.
"I'm working with a client right now on a comprehensive hazard assessment. Once the hazards and controls are identified, the client will use the information to develop training for new hires," explains Jay. Doing so will ensure this critical information is shared right away when new people come on board, which is a key component of a functional IRS.
How WSPS Can Help
Hazard Identification, Assessment, and Control (eCourse, 3 hours)
Managing Hazards and Risks (classroom, 3.5 hours)
Health and Safety for Managers and Supervisors (eCourse, 7 hours)
The information in this article is accurate as of its publication date.