By Joanna Weekes
What should you be looking out for when identifying hazards?
Really, it could be any situation, substance, activity, event, or environment that could cause injury, ill health or death to a worker or other people in the workplace.
Health and safety legislation requires you to be proactive in identifying and controlling hazards before they cause actual harm to anyone. Your aim should always be to be proactive – reactive hazard identification processes such as identifying the cause of an injury after it has occurred, are less effective and have failed to prevent the workplace incident. They can also be costly if courts impose penalties.
10 proactive hazard identification methods
Here are a few examples of methods you could adopt to identify health and safety hazards before an incident occurs:
- conducting pre-start discussions on the work to be carried out;
- encouraging workers to recognise and highlight hazards while performing work;
- carrying out safety inspections and audits of the workplace and work procedures;
- conducting job safety analyses (or similar task evaluation processes);
- monitoring, measuring and testing the working environment, such as noise monitoring, electrical testing and atmospheric testing;
- analysing proposed new or modified plant, material, process or structure;
- conducting hazard (or risk) surveys;
- reviewing product information, e.g. safety data sheets, operating manuals;
- researching publicly available data on hazards, e.g. media articles, industry or safety regulator alerts; and
- looking at past incident and near-miss reports.
Remember that a workplace is any place that a worker carries out a work task for your business, so even when your workers are offsite or travelling on business, for example, you need to be sure that they are not exposed to health and safety risks.