The identification of workplace hazards is critical for an effective loss control and prevention program. Knowing that an unidentified hazard is nearly impossible to control or prevent fully, the development of employee skills regarding hazard identification becomes critical.
What is a Workplace Hazard?
A hazard can be defined as an unsafe condition or practice that could cause injury or illnesses among workers. More generally, a hazard is anything that is capable of harming employees. No matter how we define the word, keeping hazards from affecting workers starts with proper identification.
Believe it or not, identifying hazards is sometimes more difficult than controlling or preventing them. Many times, serious hazards are easily overlooked simply because we see them every day, or “that’s the way it’s always been done before.” Hazard fatigue—where employees walk or work around hazards so long that they become unable to recognize them—is a serious obstacle to proper identification. A common example of hazard fatigue in action is repeatedly finding employees not using proper Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) such as hard hats, gloves eyewear, etc.
What You Can Do
A lack of proper identification of workplace hazards and the presence of hazard fatigue increases your risk of loss as an organization. Follow these steps to help identify workplace hazards and reduce your risk:
1. Obtain Employee Input
Employee input during the identification process accelerates achievement of the organization’s goals because it empowers the people who arguably know the job best. Encourage employee input during safety meetings, by using anonymous suggestion boxes, or establishing departmental or plant-level hazard inspection teams.
2. Rely on Fresh Eyes
Ask a co-worker to join you as you start your inspection and rotate the employees who are conducting facility inspections. Another option is to utilize third-party visitors who can easily think outside the box and find solutions that won’t be limited by existing operational practices or constraints.
3. Try to Imagine Worst Case Scenarios
What if the operator suddenly lost consciousness, would they fall off the platform? These stairs are great in fair weather, but what about when they are wet?
4. Don’t Miss Near-Misses
A near-miss occurs when the effects of a hazard are narrowly avoided. View every near-miss as a near-hit and as an opportunity to improve hazard controls.
Don’t Forget to Follow-Up
Identifying hazards is important but always be sure to follow up on problems that are identified. After all, an uncontrolled hazard is almost as dangerous as an unidentified hazard.
To control or prevent hazards, research OSHA requirements, speak to your peers, follow equipment safety guidelines, or solicit advice from a health and safety professional. If you need a reliable partner to help you safeguard your organization against unnecessary risk, contact Fifth Third Insurance or Jeff Rausch (Risk Solutions/TPA) can be contacted at 502-498-1898 to learn more about our Risk Solutions services.