Identify Hazards During the Design of a New Process or Procedure
As part of your occupational safety program, you should conduct regularly-scheduled inspections to identify hazards and risks. You should also assess hazards and risks after an incident.
But the best time to fix a problem is…before something becomes a problem. This helps to avoid incidents that could result in injuries, and high costs associated with implementing controls.
During the design of a new process or procedure, verify whether there are potential hazards. Modify the process or procedure at the design stage to eliminate the hazard or reduce the risk.
If you fail to properly identify hazards at the design stage, and the new process or procedure gets implemented, you could face difficult choices if hazards are uncovered.
You may have to eliminate or replace the process or procedure, or implement engineering controls. All three control methods are effective at reducing hazards, but they can be potentially difficult to implement and very costly.
You could also implement administrative controls or use personal protective equipment, if applicable. But both control methods are less effective than the other three, even though they’re easier to implement and less costly.
Key Elements to Look At
When you’re trying to identify hazards during the design stage of a new process or procedure, be sure to look at the following:
- The physical work environment, i.e. the equipment and machines that will be used, and the workplace layout.
- Chemicals that will be part of the process or procedure and worker exposure to these chemicals.
- The way the work will be organized or done, and the workflow that will be used.
- How individual tasks will be done.
- The workers who will be part of the process or procedure, i.e. their level of experience, their knowledge and skills, their level of participation in safety training and safety meetings, etc.
- The physical postures of workers and potential pressures, strains and stresses that may lead to ergonomic issues. Example: will workers lift heavy objects?
- The different work shifts (day, night), and whether long or late hours could create risks associated to fatigue.
- Non-routine activities such as maintenance, servicing, repair, cleaning, etc.
Identifying a hazard at the design stage of a new process or procedure results in a safer workplace, and helps to avoid potentially costly control measures down the road.
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