In module four, we studied about communication and how it can improve employee involvement in the company’s safety management system (SMS). In this module, we'll discuss the programs, processes, and procedures for identifying, analyzing, and controlling hazards and exposure to hazards.
Before we study identifying, analyzing, and controlling hazards and exposure in the workplace, it's important to know how OSHA defines these terms.
A hazard is defined as "any workplace condition that could cause an injury or illness to an employee."
There are two forms of exposure to hazards:
If you look around your workplace, you may locate a few hazardous conditions or work practices without too much trouble. Did you know that an OSHA inspector can enter your corporate front door to begin a comprehensive inspection? Wouldn't it be a smart idea for someone in the company to proactively conduct a baseline safety inspection playing the role of an OSHA inspector? Think about that while we look at some basic steps in the hazard identification and control process.
The first step in the process is to identify hazardous conditions, unsafe behaviors, and system weaknesses that might result in accidents. Safety inspections and observations are two effective hazard identification tools.
After you identify the hazards using safety inspections and observations, you need to analyze them. To be successful, assume all hazards can be prevented, eliminated, reduced, or controlled. The Job Hazard Analysis (JHA) is an excellent tool for analyzing the hazards inherent in specific jobs.
Once you finish analyzing hazards, you need to eliminate or mitigate them. A systematic strategy, called the "Hierarchy of Controls," is an effective approach to do that..
To help identify hazards, we can group them into three categories: physical hazards, behavioral hazards, and systemic hazards.
Look for hazards in each of these three categories when conducting inspections, observations, and investigations. Let's look at each category in more detail.
Click the buttons to see some examples of physical, behavioral, and systemic hazards.
To remember the three hazard categories, just use the following acronym:
Two common methods are used to identify hazards in the workplace: safety inspections and observations. Both of these methods should be accomplished regularly. The frequency of inspections and observations should be based on the nature of the hazards in the workplace.
To identify hazards in the workplace, the most common strategy is the walk-around inspection, and we'll cover this strategy first. Here are some important points to remember about safety inspections:
Most companies conduct safety inspections in compliance with OSHA rule requirements. But, is that good enough? Safety inspections may be effective, but only if the people conducting the inspection are properly educated and trained in hazard identification and control concepts and principles specific to your company. In high hazard industries which see change on a daily basis, it takes more than an occasional inspection to keep the workplace safe from hazards.
In world-class safety cultures supervisors, as well as all employees, inspect their areas of responsibility as often as the hazards of the materials, equipment, tools, environment, and tasks demand. It's really a judgment call, but if safety is involved, it's better to inspect often.
Employees should inspect the materials, equipment, and tools they use, and their immediate workstation for hazardous conditions at the start of each workday. They should inspect equipment such as forklifts, trucks, and other vehicles before using them at the start of each shift. Again, it's better to inspect closely and often.
By its very nature, the walk-around inspection, as a process, suffers from a very serious flaw. It is ineffective in uncovering unsafe behaviors because most inspectors look primarily at hazardous conditions and do not take enough time to effectively analyze individual task procedures.
Safety inspectors may walk into an area, look up, look down, look all around, and possibly ask a few questions, and move on to the next work area. In fact, the safety inspection may be effective in uncovering only a small percentage of the causes for workplace accidents because the process only looks for conditions. It's possible to inspect a workplace on a Monday, and experience a fatality the next day as a result of an unsafe work behavior that was missed the day before.
To reduce the chance of missing hazards and behaviors,develop checklists with standard questions. Click on the button to see steps if you are asked to write questions for a safety inspection.
You may use this Self-inspection Checklist as a reference. (Source: OSHA)
To overcome the weakness inherent in the safety inspection process, a safety observation program is used because it focuses primarily on employee behaviors, not physical hazards. The Safety Observation Program can help prevent injuries and illnesses by observing employees on the job.
There are two types of observation programs: formal and informal:
Click on the button to see what you can do to make your observation successful.
A trained team of observers will make observations of employees at work more effective and consistent. The observations should note the date and time, location, employee being observed, and results of the observation.
Click on the buttons to see a list of observer responsibilities, examples of behaviors observed, and a video describing a typical observation program.
Observers have the following responsibilities:
Behaviors to observe include:
We can define "process" as a systematic examination and evaluation of data or information, by breaking it into its component parts to uncover their interrelationships. In the workplace, the process of analysis breaks down job procedures, incidents, and accidents to determine component parts and causes. Two common methods are used to analyze hazards and exposure: the Job Hazard Analysis (JHA) and incident/accident investigation.
The Job Hazard Analysis (JHA) can answer weaknesses of the walk-around inspection process. It uncovers unsafe work practices as well as hazardous conditions because sufficient time is given to close analysis of one unique task at a time.
A typical JHA is accomplished by a team composed of at least one employee and one analyst using a step-by-step process: Click on the button to see the steps in the JHA process.
The SJP may then be used as a valuable training resource. Each JHA should be reviewed at least annually or whenever there is a change in the task that might introduce a new hazard.
You can get more information on the JHA process in OSHAcademy Course 706, Conducting a Job Hazard Analysis (JHA).
Investigating a worksite provides employers and workers the opportunity to identify hazards in their operations and shortcomings in their safety and health programs. Most importantly, it enables employers and workers to identify and implement the corrective actions necessary to prevent future incidents and accidents.
Investigations that focus on identifying and correcting root cause system weaknesses, not on finding fault or blame, also improve workplace morale and increase productivity, by demonstrating an employer's commitment to a safe and healthful workplace.
Surface Causes. The surface causes for accidents are the unique hazardous conditions and behaviors that lead up to and cause accidents.
Root Causes. Root causes are the safety management system weaknesses that pre-exist and contribute to the unique hazardous conditions and unsafe work practices that cause accidents.
We will have a more complete discussion of the incident/accident investigation process including surface and root causes in the next module.
Traditionally, a prioritized hazard control strategy has been used to implement feasible and effective controls. We encourage the use of the "Hierarchy of Controls" (HOC) strategy as described within the ANSI/ASSP Z10-2012, Occupational Health and Safety Management Systems, to control hazards. Let's look at examples of hazard and exposure controls.
The first three control methods focus on controlling the hazard.
The last three control methods focus on controlling behaviors to reduce exposure to the hazard. These controls are farther down the hierarchy because they work only so long as employees comply with the controls' requirements. Unfortunately, safety management systems that rely solely on compliant behaviors are inherently unreliable.
You are conducting a walk-around safety inspection when you notice the guardrail along an elevated platform area is missing. As you now understand, the missing guardrail represents a hazardous condition and would be considered a surface cause if an accident occurred. But it is actually a symptom of deeper root causes or system weaknesses.
To best make sure the guardrail gets replaced, and remains in place, you must always consider and correct the root causes/system weaknesses that allowed the hazardous condition in the first place. So, what were the system weaknesses in this example? Here are some questions you might ask to dig up the root causes for the missing guardrail:
Employee involvement in hazard identification, analysis, and control activities helps ensure they will gain a sense of ownership in safety and will be more likely to use the safe job procedures when not being directly supervised. If they're involved in developing safe job procedures, they're more likely to see them as their own procedures.
Read the material in each section to find the correct answer to each quiz question. After answering all the questions, click on the "Check Quiz Answers" button to grade your quiz and see your score. You will receive a message if you forgot to answer one of the questions. After clicking the button, the questions you missed will be listed below. You can correct any missed questions and check your answers again.
On February 7, 2008, fourteen workers were fatally burned in a series of sugar dust explosions at the Imperial Sugar plant near Savannah, Georgia. This CSB safety video explains how the accident occurred.