Hazard identification

A hazard means anything that may result in injury or harm to the health of a person. Some hazards are inherent to the workplace, other hazards may result from equipment failure, or misuse, chemical spills and structural failures.

Methods of identifying workplace hazards

Develop a hazard checklist list from most hazardous to least, chronic and acute. Consider:

  • frequency of injury (how often is the hazard likely to result in an injury or disease)
  • duration of exposure (how long is the employee likely to be exposed)
  • outcome (what are the consequences or potential severity of injury)

Examine the workplace, work practices and tasks and try to imagine circumstances that might lead to an accident or injury. Sources of information that can be used to assist in identifying hazards is information from the manufacturer. This may be in the form of specific warnings on operation, any incompatibilities with other equipment or environments and Material Safety Data Sheets. The later will be covered in more detail later. If you are still unsure as to what may constitute a risk or hazard seek advice from specialist practitioners and available organisations that deal with workplace safety.

After identifying potential risks in the workplace conduct a workplace survey by walking through the workplace and trying to find where the identified risks might occur. Consult with employees about the work place and work practices. At this point if a previously unconsidered hazard becomes apparent add it to your list!

If there are no records of accidents then you will need to establish methods of reporting and recording any accidents, injuries and incidents, including near misses where an accident might have happened, e.g. frayed power plugs or water on the floor. From these records it becomes possible to analyse unsafe incidents, accident and injury data and in conjunction with an analysis of work practices identify areas that need more attention. In many countries the increased insurance premiums, any compensation paid and the penalties for failing to provide a safe work environment will ultimately cost far more than attending to the hazards.