What Does Hazard Assessment Mean?
A hazard assessment is a procedure designed to identify, assess, and manage health risks and safety hazards in the workplace. It also recommends appropriate safety measures to use to mitigate the identified hazards.
Hazard assessments can be a detailed and thorough process or it can be as simple as following running through a checklist or visually inspecting a working area. Hazard assessments should be conducted daily, even if there are no noticeable changes to the workspace or jobsite. This will ensure that all hazards are accounted for and all relevant hazard controls are put in place.
Safeopedia Explains Hazard Assessment
The terms "hazard" and "risk" are often used interchangeably. In the context of a hazard assessment, however, the two have separate meanings. A hazard refers to a situation that exposes a worker to potential injury or illness. Risk, on the other hand, refers to the probability that the worker will become sick or injured due to a hazard.
The purpose of a hazard assessment is to minimize the risk of illness or injury by identifying as many hazards as possible and implementing controls to reduce the likelihood of an adverse event.
The Two Types of Hazard Assessments
There are two types of hazard assessments:
1. Formal Hazard Assessments
This type of assessment takes a look at individual tasks involved in carrying out every job within an organization, from office work to front line labor. Every position is broken down into separate tasks and analyzed to give a detailed assessment of the hazards and risks related to each of them.
Steps for conducting formal hazard assessment include:
- Identifying each position
- Breaking it down into discrete tasks
- Noting the hazards encountered in carrying out each task
- Assessing the risks associated with each hazard
- Recommending control methods for each hazard
- Overseeing the implementation of these control measures
- Periodically re-evaluating the hazards, risks, and controls
- Regularly updating documents
2. Site-specific Hazard Assessments
Site-specific hazard assessments are more localized than its formal counterpart. They are concerned with identifying hazards in a particular area, at a particular moment. They are also known as field-level hazard assessment (FLHA).
Site-specific hazard assessments ensures the ongoing safety of the workers. It is through these that new or unexpected hazards are encountered and the need for additional control measures are identified quickly.
Hazard controls are measures taken to eliminate or mitigate the risks associated with workplace hazards. A hazard assessment not only identifies the hazards that need to be controlled but also guide the selection of proper control methods.
Safety professionals typically follow the hierarchy of control, which categorizes control methods, starting from the most effective to the least:
- Elimination – Removing the hazard altogehter. This is the ideal control method but it is often impossible to implement, since some hazards are essential features of a job (repairing power lines, for instance, must be done at heights).
- Substitution – Replacing materials or equipment with less hazardous options. An employer might, for example, replace cleaning products that have a strong inhalation hazard with one that is more benign.
- Engineering controls – Using equipment to isolate workers from a hazard. This could include installing barriers to reduce the risk of falling or making use of machine guards to prevent workers from accidentally coming into contact with a machine's moving parts.
- Administrative controls – Changing the way people perform their jobs, such as allowing additional breaks for workers carrying out strenuous work or rotating work tasks to prevent repetitive stress injuries.
- Personal protective equipment (PPE) – Providing adequate protective gear and fall arresting systems to keep workers safe. This is often considered the "last line of defense." When other control methods fail, proper PPE can prevent or reduce the severity of the injuries a worker suffers.
Multiple types of control methods can be used to reduce the risks of any given hazard. For instance, an employer substituting a corrosive chemical with one that is less harmful might still need to equip workers with chemical resistant gloves.