Originally published July 27, 2016
Construction sites are fertile ground for hazards. Many workers are injured or killed at the workplace every day in the United States. You can help prevent workplace injuries, illnesses and fatalities by looking at your workplace operations and identifying possible hazards and eliminating them. A job hazard analysis is an exercise in detective work. Your goal will be to discover what can go wrong, what the consequences could be, how did the hazard arise, what were other contributing factors and how likely is it that exposure to the hazard could actually result in injury.
Hazards exist in four areas:
- People – Identify improperly trained or poorly supervised individuals, those that seem distracted and are not paying attention to their surroundings, employees not wearing the assigned or appropriate safety equipment and those not following safe work practices.
- Equipment – Poorly maintained or uninspected equipment, unguarded equipment or improper or worn out equipment for the task at hand.
- Materials – Flammable materials or those that require special storage and handling, chemicals that are volatile or dangerous when inhaled or that come in contact with skin and materials that are improperly stored.
- Environment – Insufficient lighting, loud or constant sounds, traffic in and around work zones and inclement weather. Also identify any toxic substance produced by living things such as bacteria, viruses and fungi that can cause illness or disease in humans.
A good safety system will include a hazard assessment process for all of these areas, provide avenues for employees to report injuries and near misses, and be proactive in addressing hazards that are identified.
- All employees should be involved in the hazard analysis process. Employees at each work level have a unique understanding of the job. A buy-in from employees will help minimize oversights, ensure a quality analysis and help provide solutions to hazards that are discovered.
- Review your company’s accident history. This would include accidents and occupational illnesses that needed treatment, losses that required repair or replacement and any near misses where loss did not occur, but could have. These events are indicators that the existing hazard controls (if any) may not be adequate and deserve more scrutiny.
- Conduct a preliminary job review. Discuss your findings with your employees and brainstorm with them for ideas to eliminate or control those hazards. If any hazards exist that pose an immediate danger to an employee’s life or health, take immediate actions to protect the worker. Problems that can be corrected easily, should be corrected as soon as possible.
- List, rank and set priorities for hazardous jobs. List jobs with hazards that present unacceptable risks, based on those most likely to occur and with the most severe consequences. These jobs should be your first priority.
Hazard assessments should be done on a regular basis. Don’t assume that because you’ve done it once, everything is in order. Worksites are constantly changing, and safety hazards are bound to appear at various times throughout a given job.