What Is a Hazard?

A hazard is a situation, an item, or a condition that is potentially dangerous. A hazard might endanger the health and/or safety of workers, service providers, or the general public.

Hazards may be benign, but they have the potential to result in injury, illness or loss of life and/or property within certain conditions, and are described as accidents looking for a place to happen.

Most hazards are foreseeable and, therefore, preventable if safety measures are implemented and hazards are diligently reported and dealt with.

What Is a Field Level Hazard Assessment?

A field level hazard assessment (FLHA) identifies potentially harmful situations, conditions, or objects. Hazards are evaluated on the basis of whether they could lead to illness, injury, death, or loss of property of employees, service providers, and/or the general public. A hazard assessment will typically identify potential hazards within the work area, as well as safety measures being used to mitigate the risks associated with the identified hazards.

Why Are Hazard Assessments So Important?

Loss of life, injuries causing disability or loss of income are costly to the individual, the employer and the insurer. A poor safety report can have all sorts of negative effects on a business. Illness and injury affect the productivity of a company and, hence, worker safety is the bottom line.

Poor health and safety conditions can cause property damage, increase insurance costs and result in employees and potential employees not wishing to work for a company. Hazard assessments greatly reduce the risk of workplace incidents and accidents, and ensure the workers safety. Thus, they have a direct contribution to the overall quality of the health and safety of workers.

What Is Involved in a Hazard Assessment?

Those in charge of assessing the hazards in a workplace scrutinize items, conditions and situations that could potentially pose a risk to employees, service providers and/or the general public. They look at situations and conditions and theorize what could potentially go wrong that could or would result in loss of life, loss of work days, loss of productivity, loss of property, injuries or sickness.

When a hazard assessment is conducted, this allows the employer to take whatever actions he/she can to avoid accidents, illnesses and injuries. The hazard assessment also analyzes what must be done to prevent accidents, illness, injury or loss.

Hazard assessments look realistically at every task in the workplace and its inherent dangers. Then it sets out to make each task as safe as possible.

What Are Typical Hazards in the Workplace?

Whenever machinery is being used there is danger of a malfunctioning machine, unsafe operation, unsafe clothing for machine operation, untrained workers, or poor working conditions for operating machinery.

If the workplace involves movement of vehicles, like on a construction site, there are potential dangers. On a construction site, materials or tools may pose a danger because the workplace has not been kept cleared and employees do not see materials that are in the traffic area.

Some workplaces involve working with hazardous materials. Improper handling or lack of safety materials may result in injury, death or illness. This might occur due to improper storage, handling, or inappropriate safety equipment or procedures.

Tips for Successful Field Level Hazard Assessments

The following tips have been offered by OSHA:

  • Monthly inspections are necessary, but they are no substitute for a FLHA. Inspections look at the hazards you know exist. FLHAs look for hazards.
  • Create a FLHA team. The members should be as close to field level as possible. They are the ones who work with these potential hazards every day. Ultimately the employer is responsible for the prevention of injuries, illness, and loss, but workers in the field have the most immediate understanding of conditions.
  • Try to include someone on your FLHA team who doesn’t work in this area all the time. Things that would be picked up as hazards by a fresh pair of eyes become overlooked problems if you work with them every day.
  • Divide the assessment area into sections. These may include: offices, receiving, shipping, manufacturing, customer service, processing.
  • Do a pre-assessment preparation. Start by collecting information about previous inspections and recommended changes. Look at data from work hazard reports, recommendations from joint Health and Safety Committee, and maintenance reports.
  • The FLHA committee’s job is to note hazards. Whether these have yet to cause an injury, illness, or loss is not part of this committee’s consideration.
  • FLHA committees should inform employees and managers of the upcoming hazard assessment. Identify hazards on site by inspection, but also by talking to workers and having them demonstrate how a process or piece of equipment or safety procedure works.
  • FLHA committees must decide whether existing procedures and equipment are adequate for dealing with hazards. Recommendations may be to: leave procedures and equipment as it is, substitute a better procedure or safety equipment, remove a hazard from the workplace, reduce exposure through modifications in the environment or safety equipment, make alterations in when, where and/or how the work is done.
  • Field level hazard assessment committee reports should be shared with the employer, managers and workers, so there is transparency and a shared sense of responsibility for changes.