Our latest Safetip is about tracking the amount of time passed between the identification and the abatement of a hazard.
Hazards and risks must be identified as part of a workplace safety and health program.
A hazard is a source of potential harm to someone or something. It can potentially cause illness or injury to workers, or damage to property or equipment.
A risk is the likelihood of an adverse event due to exposure to a hazard. A risk assessment evaluates the likelihood of an incident taking place because of the hazard, and the severity of the potential incident.
Basically an incident is a risk that has materialized because of a hazard and exposure to the hazard.
So it all starts with hazards! Identify workplace hazards, and you will be well on your way to identifying safety risks.
Addressing a Hazard
The best way to address a hazard is by completely getting rid of it. In the hierarchy of controls, this corresponds to “Elimination” or “Substitution”, which are the most effective control methods.
Big changes in processes, procedures, equipment or chemicals may be needed to eliminate or substitute a hazard. But elimination and substitution may also be costly and difficult to implement.
If a hazard can’t be eliminated or substituted, the next best thing is to control exposure to the hazard to reduce risks of injury or illness. This can be done through engineering controls, administrative controls or Personal Protective Equipment.
But administrative controls and PPE are less effective measures and should be used only if the other three methods are not feasible.
A Possible Leading Indicator
It’s not enough to identify a hazard. You must also take action to abate the hazard, either by getting rid of it, or controlling exposure to reduce risks.
How fast you act after the identification of a hazard is a good indication of the effectiveness of your safety and health program.
OSHA’s document “Using Leading Indicators to Improve Safety and Health Outcomes” even suggests the following leading indicator for measuring the implementation of recommended practices for hazard prevention and control:
“Percentage of hazards abated on the same day, week, or month in which the hazard was identified.”
Track the amount of time that passes between the identification and the abatement of a hazard. You can use your own categories (number of days, number of weeks, etc.).
However, be sure to take into account whether you’re implementing interim controls.
Sometimes it may take a long time to implement the most effective control. But the risk still exists during that time, which is why interim controls may have to be implemented. If that’s the case, don’t consider the hazard as fully abated yet.
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