Identifying hazards in the workplace is the first step to a good hazard/risk management as you cannot manage what you do not know. The goal of identifying hazards in the workplace is to find and record possible hazards that may be present in the workplace.
Every workplace has different hazards, and it is the duty of every employer to ensure that all hazards within their workplace are identified and managed adequately.
Hazard identification is part of the process used to evaluate if any particular situation, item, thing, etc. may have the potential to cause harm. The term often used to describe the full process is risk assessment. This workplace risk assessment involves; determining how employees might be at risk; evaluate the risks; record and review hazards at least annually, or earlier if something changes.
A hazard identification procedure is done through a collaborative effort of employers and workers. A step-by-step procedure could be as follows:
- Gather information about existing hazards that are likely to be present in the workplace.
- Perform regular site walkthroughs to identify new hazards.
- Review accidents and near miss logs to further investigate root causes and program shortcomings.
- Identify similar trends across all incidents, illnesses and hazards recorded. Also, consider hazards which are present on non-routine jobs
- Determine the level of risk, significance, and frequency of each hazard to know which needs to be prioritized.
When should hazard identification be done
Hazard identification can be done:
- During design and implementation: Example – Designing a new process or procedure or Purchasing and installing new machinery.
- Before tasks are done
- While tasks are being done
- During inspections
- After incidents
Things to look out for during hazard identification:
- Look at all aspects of the work and include non-routine activities such as maintenance, repair, or cleaning.
- Look at the physical work environment, equipment, materials, products, etc. that are used.
- Include how the tasks are done.
- Look at injury and incident records.
- Talk to the workers: they know their job and its hazards best.
- Include all shifts, and people who work off site either at home, on other job sites, drivers, teleworkers, with clients, etc.
- Look at the way the work is organized or done (include experience of people doing the work, systems being used, etc).
- Look at foreseeable unusual conditions (for example: possible impact on hazard control procedures that may be unavailable in an emergency situation, power outage, etc.).
- Determine whether a product, machine or equipment can be intentionally or unintentionally changed (e.g., a safety guard that could be removed).
- Review all of the phases of the lifecycle.
- Examine risks to visitors or the public.
- Consider the groups of people that may have a different level of risk such as young or inexperienced workers, persons with disabilities, or new or expectant mothers.