Our latest Safetip is about maintaining an inventory of internal and external sources of information on workplaces hazards.
Hazards and Risks: What’s the Difference?
Many people use “hazards” and “risks” interchangeably, but they’re not the same thing!
A hazard is a source of potential damage, harm or adverse effect. It can affect something or someone. A hazard has the potential to cause illness or injury to people, or damage to property or equipment.
A risk is the likelihood of an adverse event due to exposure to a hazard. A risk assessment determines the likelihood that an incident would take place because of the hazard, and the severity of the potential incident.
In essence, an incident is a risk that has materialized because of: 1) the presence of a hazard, and 2) exposure to the hazard (contact, interaction, close proximity, etc).
It is theoretically possible for a hazard to exist without any serious risk of incident. But that’s not the proper mindset to adopt. All hazards should be taken seriously and investigated for their potential to cause harm.
Once a hazard is identified, it can either be eliminated, or control measures can be used to reduce risks of incidents caused by the hazard. The hierarchy of controls shows the effectiveness of control measures.
Let’s use an example. Inspecting a communication tower is a hazardous situation because someone has to work at heights. You can either eliminate the hazard by using a drone to conduct the inspection, or you can mitigate the risk of injury by using fall protection gear or a mobile elevated platform.
List All Sources of Information
An effective workplace safety program consists of identifying and mitigating safety risks. You need to be aware of workplace hazards to properly identify safety risks.
To help with hazard identification and assessment, start by creating and maintaining a list of all sources of information on workplace hazards. The sources should be consulted periodically, or whenever a new process or job task is introduced.
The following are sources of information on hazards that may already be available in your workplace and that are mentioned in OSHA’s document on Recommended Practices for Safety and Health Programs:
- Equipment and machinery operating manuals.
- Safety Data Sheets (SDSs) provided by chemical manufacturers.
- Self-inspection reports and inspection reports from insurance carriers, government agencies, and consultants.
- Records of previous injuries and illnesses, such as OSHA 300 and 301 logs.
- Reports of incident investigations.
- Workers’ compensation records and reports.
- Patterns of frequently occurring injuries and illnesses.
- Exposure monitoring results, industrial hygiene assessments, and medical records (appropriately redacted to ensure patient/worker privacy).
- Input from workers, including surveys or minutes from safety and health committee meetings.
- Results of job hazard analyses or job safety analyses.
- Documentation from other existing safety and health programs (lockout/tagout, confined spaces, process safety management, PPE, etc.).
There are also external sources of information that you can use, such as:
- Websites, publications and alerts from OSHA, NIOSH, the CDC, EU OSHA, EU ECHA, the UK HSE, and other government agencies from around the world.
- Best practices or other publications made available by industry groups or trade associations.
- Labor unions, state and local occupational safety and health committees/coalitions, and worker advocacy groups.
- Safety and health subject matter experts and consultants.
Be sure that all internal sources of information are always up-to-date, and monitor the external sources.
Finally, don’t be reactive by simply waiting for a hazard to be documented somewhere. Be proactive by encouraging workers to report observations and near misses directly in the field through mobile devices. Events reported by workers can help you identify new hazards.
Our Safetips share safety tips or best practices that contribute to safety excellence. Visit Enablon Insights regularly for new Safetips!