Course 701 - Effective Safety Committee Operations

Safety guides and audits to make your job as a safety professional easier

Hazard Identification and Analysis Tools

Right Tools for the Job

Safety Committee
Identify conditions and behaviors when you inspect.

Now that you have a good idea about the training requirements for safety committees, it's time to take a look at some of the tools available to the safety committee to identify hazards in the workplace and determine how to best correct those hazards.

Workplace Accidents

Earlier, we talked about the importance of understanding the nature of workplace hazards that are manifested primarily as hazardous conditions, unsafe behaviors, and ineffective administrative controls. We need to understand which of the cause categories below result in the most accidents:

  1. Conditions. Hazardous conditions account for very few workplace accidents. Yet, most of the time we look primarily for unsafe conditions when conducting a walk-around safety inspection. OSHA compliance inspections are geared toward discovering unsafe conditions so it's no wonder that employer inspections focus on the same thing. It's possible that your company could conduct a safety inspection on Tuesday only to have a fatality on Wednesday as a result of an unsafe work practice that was not uncovered during the inspection the previous day. Therefore, the focus of our attention during safety inspections must be on both hazardous conditions and unsafe behaviors.
  2. Behaviors. Unsafe work practices and behaviors directly account for more accidents than hazardous conditions. But what are the factors that contribute to the hazardous conditions and unsafe behaviors? What is the "ultimate cause" for most accidents?
  3. Systems. Safety management system failures are inadequate or nonexistent safety principles, policies, programs, plans, processes, procedures, and practices. These system component "root-cause" failures contribute to virtually all of the hazardous conditions and unsafe behaviors that cause accidents. Therefore, the only assumption we should make when an accident occurs is that the safety management system has failed in some way. Our job is to discover and correct those failures.

There are a few situations when the safety management system is working and should not be judged as the root cause for an accident:

  • the accident results when the employee makes an informed decision to intentionally violate a safety rule;
  • the accident is what is termed an "act of God" (lightning, etc.); or
  • the accident is the result of an illness/disease which is unknown by the employee and not observable by management.

1. Virtually all accidents in the workplace are the result of _____.

a. lack of common sense and good judgment
b. safety management system failures
c. hazardous conditions
d. intentional unsafe behaviors

Next Section

OSHA Citations

Safety Committee
OSHA will evaluate supervision, training, accountability and resources.

When OSHA investigates accidents, they generally write citations addressing four general violation categories.

  • Inadequate supervision: The employer fails to adequately supervise employees.
  • Inadequate education/training: The employer fails to adequately train employees.
  • Inadequate accountability: The employer fails to enforce compliance with safety rules and policies.
  • Inadequate resources: The employer fails to provide adequate resources such as tools, equipment, facilities.

As borne out by OSHA fatality accident investigation reports, the vast majority of injuries occur in these four violation categories. Consequently, safety committees need to look at them as the "Big 4" system weaknesses and focus on them in safety inspections and accident analyses.

Effective safety management, which is an organizational skill, does not allow these system weaknesses to exist in the workplace. The employer has the ability to develop safety management systems that address the vast majority of hazardous conditions and unsafe work practices in the workplace. I believe there is always a way to fix the system to reduce hazards and exposures to an acceptable level.

2. Which of the following is one of the four general OSHA citation categories that result from fatal investigations?

a. Inadequate accountability
b. Inadequate recordkeeping
c. Inadequate rewards and recognition
d. Inadequate discipline

Next Section

Hazardous Conditions

Safety Committee
The five MEEPS Hazard Categories.

A hazardous condition may be thought of as a "state of being" that exists. All workplaces contain hazardous conditions in any one or more of the five categories below. It is easy to remember the categories by using the "MEEPS" acronym:

  1. Materials: Raw materials such as chemicals, wood, metals, fibers, and plastics may present hazards.
  2. Environments: Physical - Atmospheres, noise, temperature, ergonomics. Psychosocial - inadequate time, unreasonable schedules, unobtainable goals, other employees can create a high level of anxiety, distress leading to illness.
  3. Equipment: Tools, portable equipment, stationary machinery...anything that moves is hazardous.
  4. People: Lack of training, inadequate physical/mental ability, distraction, misuse of drugs, etc. can all create "walking hazardous conditions."
  5. System: Safety management systems in which programs, policies, plans, processes, and procedures are either missing or inadequate."

3. Which of the following is considered a hazardous condition?

a. Driving a defective vehicle
b. Using a broken ladder
c. Employee physically too weak for the job
d. Engaging in horseplay

Next Section

Unsafe and Inappropriate Behaviors

Safety Committee
Employee unsafe behaviors and supervisor inappropriate behaviors.

Simply put, unsafe behaviors are what we do or don't do that result in an injury or illness. These include work procedures that increase the likelihood of an injury. Unsafe employee behaviors represent, by far, the highest percentage of direct surface causes for accidents in the workplace. But, what fosters unsafe behaviors? Inappropriate management-level behaviors.

  • The longer employees are exposed to hazards, the more they will naturally become more likely to trivialize the dangers those hazards pose. Most unsafe behaviors occur because employees are likely in a hurry. Employees may also want to take shortcuts to be efficient or because don't realize the dangers. Most of the time, employees don't comply with safety rules because they don't know why they are important.
  • When supervisors and managers properly train, supervise, hold their employees accountable, implement effective safety programs, and set the proper example, they exhibit real safety leadership. But, when they fail to do that, they fail their employees.

Unsafe Employee Behaviors

Employees make choices about safety each day: They may choose to work safely, or they may choose to ignore safety. Employees do what they do in the workplace because of the consequences they think will follow.

Employee actions depend in large measure on the nature of the safety culture they work within. For instance, if your company has large machinery or equipment, you probably have a lockout/tagout program that requires employees to follow specific procedures. Deciding to bypass those procedures would represent an unsafe behavior.

In a worst-case scenario, employees may work within a culture that actually encourages unsafe behaviors. On the other hand, they may work within a safety culture that expects and insists on high standards of safety behavior. Ultimately, employee behaviors in the workplace depend on the safety culture (leadership) and safety system design (management).

4. Employees don't comply with safety rules most often because _____.

a. they are worried about not meeting work schedules
b. they don't know why it is important
c. they think they will be more efficient doing it their way
d. they lack the proper knowledge and skills to work safe

Next Section

Unsafe and Inappropriate Behaviors (Continued)

Inappropriate Management Behaviors

Safety is too important for supervisors and managers to merely "encourage". They must display and insist on safe behaviors that produce safe conditions. Failure to do so may produce unsafe employee behaviors and hazardous conditions throughout all levels in the organization. As position and responsibility increase, so does the impact of unsafe management-level behaviors. Examples of unsafe management-level decisions and behaviors include:

  • Managers unintentionally create hazards or exhibit unsafe behaviors. This is the most common reason management-level hazardous conditions and unsafe behaviors exist. Inadequate education and training, unreasonable work loads or other pressures may prevent top management from formulating adequate safety systems, middle management from implementing them, and supervisors from overseeing the implementation on a daily basis.
  • Managers intentionally create hazards or exhibit unsafe behaviors. We want to think this never happens, but the truth is, it does. Thankfully, it's probably quite rare. Intentional unsafe behaviors usually take the form of "ignoring" established safety policies and rules. A more serious situation arises when a supervisor or manager directs employees to perform actions that create a hazard or exposes the employee to an existing hazard without proper protection.

The solution to both types of management-level behavior failures is to make sure supervisors, managers, and executives are properly educated on the importance of safety and how to demonstrate safety leadership.

5. What is the most common reason management-level hazardous conditions exist?

a. Managers intentionally create hazards or exhibit unsafe behaviors.
b. Managers expect employees to exhibit unsafe behaviors
c. Managers unintentionally create hazards or exhibit unsafe behaviors
d. Managers don't feel responsible for safety

Next Section

Safety Management Systems

Every company formulates some sort of safety management system (SMS) to ensure the workplace is safe and healthful. Safety management systems may be designed to meet various goals: to maintain OSHA compliance, achieve higher profits, and/or protect valued employees. Ultimately SMS design and performance strengths and weaknesses represent the root causes determining the degree to which the company's safety culture is successful.

Since weaknesses in safety management system design and performance result in hazards and behaviors that cause accidents, ultimately "fixing the system" is the most effective hazard control strategy in creating a safe and healthful workplace. Typical components of an effective SMS include:

  • Vision statement: Vision statements tell the world what the company would like to have accomplished in the future. A vision statement is based on an organization's strategic and organizational objectives.
  • Mission statement: Mission statements tells the world why the company is in business. It's purpose. What it does.
  • Objectives: These describe the intended outcomes that support the mission and vision.
  • Policies: Policies provide general guidance formulated and implemented by managers at all levels. It allows employees to make decisions without having to ask permission.
  • Programs: Programs focus on specific topics like confined space, training, and accountability. They Describe coordinated strategies that support policy.
  • Plans: Give clear written (formal) guidelines on how to implement programs and policies. They include long-term strategies and short-term tactics.
  • Processes: Process usually includes several procedures, and they may be very complicated. They help to make sure safety is integrated into operational processes.
  • Procedures: These are concise formal/informal step-by-step instructions about how to perform a task.
  • Budgets: Budgets support investment in all of the above.
  • Rules: Rules are very specific and clearly state specifications and performance standards.
  • Reports: Reports provide useful data that helps to improve safety. They reflect process and measures results. They evaluate the effectiveness of all the above.

Bottom line: Safety management systems must be designed and deployed effectively or the results will be flawed. If system design is flawed, it doesn't matter how effective deployment is; the result will not be what was intended.

6. What is listed as the most effective hazard control strategy in creating a safe and healthful workplace?

a. Getting management funding
b. Fixing the system
c. Firing unsafe employees
d. Oversee workplace compliance

Next Section

Two Important Tools to Identify Hazards

Your ability to identify hazardous conditions and unsafe work practices can be very effective if you are given the correct tools. We'll talk about two such tools below.

The Safety Inspection...An Effective Tool

The first important tool is rather obvious: It's the safety inspection or audit. Three important points should be remembered when conducting the safety inspection.

  • Know what you are doing. Only trained individuals should conduct safety inspections. They should be aware of the different types of hazards in the workplace. Unsafe materials, tools, equipment, work station design, noise, atmospheres, temperature extremes, and work practices should be evaluated. The inspector should know what to look for, and how to look for it. Get trained.
  • Allow enough time to conduct a thorough inspection. The more time you give to complete the safety inspection, the more likely you'll uncover that hazard waiting to injure someone. Actually, a short inspection conducted once a quarter by an untrained safety committee member or supervisor may not be worth the time spent to conduct it.
  • Use a checklist.

Safety Inspection Checklist

Advantages: Checklists, when properly constructed help you inspect for hazardous conditions and unsafe work procedures in a structured, systematic manner. If a checklist is not used, it's more likely that quality will suffer over time. Without a checklist, the conduct of the inspection will vary widely from person to person, depending on their expertise.

Disadvantages: Simply put, checklists take time to construct: time you may not have. But the long-term advantages far outweigh the short term effort. A second disadvantage is that using a checklist might cause the dreaded "tunnel vision" syndrome when an inspector overlooks a hazard in the workplace because it was not addressed in the checklist. The cure for this common disease is to merely place a "catch-all" question into the checklist that asks if there are any other hazards that need to be corrected.

7. How do you overcome "tunnel vision" while conducting a safety inspection?

a. Put a "catch-all" question in the checklist
b. Stay focused in one area at a time
c. Use the "rolling-eyeball" method
d. Don't try to find all hazards

Next Section

The Job Hazard Analysis

The Job Hazard Analysis or "JHA" is a less used procedure to identify and control hazards in the workplace, but it is considered far more effective in reducing injuries and illnesses. The JHA procedures go something like this:

  1. The supervisor and employee get together and talk about doing a JHA.
  2. The employee works through about five or more cycles of a task;
  3. The supervisor records what the employee does;
  4. The supervisor and employee break the job down into distinct steps;
  5. They analyze each step for unsafe conditions, behaviors, and practices;
  6. They think up ways to correct the hazards in each step;
  7. They devise ways to work safely in each step;
  8. They write an improved safe work procedure for the job.

The JHA is far more effective than the walk-around inspection because it systematically identifies unsafe work conditions, behaviors, and practices. The safety inspector conducting a traditional safety inspection may not take the time necessary to watch each job being performed in the area he or she inspects. Consequently, many unsafe work procedures are not discovered. The Job Hazard Analysis does require the time necessary to uncover unsafe work practices and procedures.

8. Why is the JHA considered superior to the safety inspection in reducing workplace injuries and illnesses?

a. The JHA establishes non-accountability at all levels
b. The JHA analyzes unsafe conditions, behaviors, and practices
c. The JHA takes less time than the inspection
d. The JHA takes less training then the inspection

Next Section

The OSHA 300 Log

OSHA 300 Log
(Click link to see form instructions)

"What?" you may ask... is the OSHA 300 Log? What is it good for? In the USA, the OSHA 300 Log is probably one of the best statistical tools you have in analyzing long-term hazardous conditions and unsafe work practices.

Take a look at each column of your company's OSHA 300 Log and ask Who, What, Where, When and How questions about each entry. Take the information you gain from this analysis to draw conclusions about where your greatest effort needs to be directed. For instance, most lost workday claims are due to strains and sprains. Your OSHA 300 Log may reflect this trend. At any rate, analyzing the OSHA 300 Log allows you to act on facts, not hunches.

Think about this too: When an OSHA compliance officer comes to inspect, he or she will always review your OSHA 300 Log. The Log will tell the OSHA compliance officer exactly where accidents are occurring and what kind of injuries and illnesses are happening. At that point the compliance officer knows where to put emphasis in the inspection. Make sure all hazards identified on the OSHA 300 Log are corrected! You can learn more about OSHA recordkeeping in OSHAcademy course 708 OSHA Recordkeeping Basics.

9. The OSHA 300 log is a statistical tool the helps to directly uncover long-term _____.

a. root causes of accidents
b. who is at fault for accidents
c. hazardous conditions and unsafe behaviors
d. how to correct hazards that caused injuries

Check your Work

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.

Next Module
OSHAcademy Ultimate Guide Banner Ad