Principles of Hazard Management
Hazard management is the term applied to the systematic approach used to determine what is dangerous in the workplace, why it is dangerous and how to fix or control it.
A hazard management approach is applied in the development of national standards, Codes of Practice and guidance notes. It is this approach that should be applied to all health and safety issues.
There are two basic types of hazards:
• those that endanger safety, and
• those that threaten a person ’s health.
• the probability that a hazard will result in an incident/accident.
• the interaction process used by an organisation to identify, evaluate and control hazards to reduce the risk of injury or disease.
Hazard Management Approach
What are the potential hazards and/or risks?
• What is the nature of the risk?
• What are the options for control?
Monitor And Review
• Is the control effective?
It is important to understand these principles to be able to apply current health and safety Regulations and Codes of Practice.
Hazard identification is the process of identifying all the risks in the workplace together with the sources of those risks –the hazards. It involves the systematic investigation of all potential risks and identifying and recording the hazards which are causing them. A hazard refers to anything that has the potential to harm life, health and property.
Hazards may arise from:
• Workplace environment (e.g. building with inadequate ventilation)
• Equipment (e.g. machine with no safety guard)
• Substances (e.g. hazardous fumes from solvents)
• Work systems (e.g. fire escapes being used as a work area during peak times)
Hazards also come in many forms including:
• Physical (e.g. noise)
• Chemical (e.g. toxic gases)
• Ergonomic (e.g.the height of a work bench)
• Psychological (e.g. stress from excessive workload)
• Biological (e.g. syringes containing potentially infected blood)
There are many ways of identifying hazards:
• workplace inspections;
• employee complaints;
• analysis of accident/incident and sickness reports;
• monitoring information on Material Safety Data Sheets, industry journals, health and safety bulletins;
• employee surveys;
• accident inspections; and
• Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDSs)
Once identified, a hazard must be assessed to gain understanding of the potential severity or risk.
‘Risk’ refers to the probability of a person succumbing to danger. The process of risk assessment involves looking at the hazard as well as the likelihood of people being exposed to it.
When workers are exposed to a certain hazard they absorb a certain ‘dose’ which has a certain ‘effect’.
If a connection can be established between ‘dose’ and ‘effect’, there is a strong argument that the hazard causes the effect and therefore needs to be controlled.
The risk needs to be evaluated and the most appropriate type and level of control determined.
Risk assessment involves making a judgement and evaluating what is deemed to be an ‘acceptable’ level of risk.
A risk assessment should include the following factors:
a) frequency and duration of exposure
b) consequences of the exposure to the hazard
c) probability of an injury occurring.
A hazard assessment often requires assistance from an ‘expert’ and usually involves:
The occupational specialists often used at this stage are:
• ergonomist – job and equipment design
• occupational hygienist – asbestos, noise, radiation, chemicals.
Research may require the use of standard reference works (e.g. Material Safety Data Sheets for chemicals),an investigation of reports from similar studies and a comparison with recommended limits for exposure.
Once the hazard is identified and the risk assessed, appropriate measures need to be selected for controlling hazards in the workplace.
Risk control is taking action to eliminate or minimise risks that have been identified in the workplace.
This can be achieved by applying the hierarchy of hazard control . They are listed in order from most preferred to least preferred control measure and can be used separately or in combination.
There are often many different solutions to particular problems.
When selecting a control measure the aim should be to choose one as close to the top of the hierarchy as possible because the further down the hierarchy you go, the less effective the control measures are.
This is because the measures at the top of the hierarchy are actually dealing with the hazard itself, while the measures lower down are more concerned with trying to change worker behaviour or getting the worker to adapt to the hazard, rather than fixing the hazard at the source.
Hierarchy of Hazard Control
1. Eliminate the Hazard
The best way to eliminate a risk is to remove the hazard. For example, remove the hazardous plant or chemical, or discontinue its use.
If the risk cannot be eliminated there are several control options that can be used alone or in combination.
2. Substitute with a Lesser Hazard
The second best option for controlling a risk is to substitute it.
For example, substituting an unsafe chemical with a safer one (e.g. organic, approved by a dermatologist, etc.) or substituting an unsafe piece of plant or equipment with a safer one.
3. Modify the Work System or Process
The third best option for controlling a risk is to modify it. For example, modifying the machinery to include safety guards or eliminating a hazardous step in an unsafe procedure.
4. Isolate the Hazard
The fourth best option for controlling a risk is to isolate it – that is, relocate the hazard away from employees.
For example, placing acoustic booths around noisy equipment or using automated mechanical devices instead of manual labour.
5. Engineering Controls
The fifth best option for controlling a risk is through the use of engineering controls. For example, using mechanical aids, forklifts, trolleys, or conveyor belts.
6. Administrative Controls
The sixth best option for controlling a risk is through the use of administrative controls. This is the use of safe work practices to minimise exposure to the hazard.
For example, training, job rotation, or using written procedures to indicate how tasks are to be done or who is permitted in certain areas.
7. Personal Protective Equipment
The least preferred option is the use of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). PPE is a means of covering and protecting a worker’s body from hazards, e.g. protective clothing, footwear and gloves.
PPE can be used to supplement a ‘higher order’ control, or as a short-term measure until a ‘higher order’ control is provided. When PPE is required the employer must provide and maintain it.
General Problems with Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
All forms of PPE have a common drawback – the hazard still exists. Therefore, any failure of personal protection would lead to the worker being exposed to the hazard. It also has the following disadvantages:
1. PPE frequently does not provide the protection claimed.
2. PPE is uncomfortable and makes working more difficult.
3. PPE often creates a hazard in itself.
4. Protection offered by PPE cannot be monitored.
5. Protection offered by PPE is a constant responsibility that is imposed on the worker.
6. PPE effectiveness depends on a ‘good fit’ with workers.
7. Reliance on PPE inhibits the development of new control technologies.
8. Workers require training and information to safely use PPE, which are often not provided.
9.The appropriate control measures must ensure that:
• the hazard is adequately controlled;
• workers can do their jobs without undue discomfort or stress;
• new hazards are not created; and
• any person at risk is protected.
Monitor For Effectiveness
Once a measure for controlling or reducing a hazard has been selected and implemented, it is important to monitor its effectiveness to ensure that the expected result is achieved and maintained.
• Check that changes are being used correctly.
• Check that assessed risks have been reduced.
• Monitor whether employees are reporting unwanted effects that may increase or introduce other hazards.