Every workplace has safety risks and hazards, from manufacturing facilities to offices to construction sites and beyond. How to identify and control these risks is unique to every industry. Many risks and safety hazards are not always obvious. Rather, you may only discover them after they’ve caused an issue.
As an EHS professional, it’s up to you to find and manage these risks before they cause harm. Take a look at four ways you can control hazards and risks in the workplace to protect employees and your company.
1. Strengthen Your Safety Culture
A strong safety culture is at the heart of any safety-conscious organization. You can’t promote a safe workplace by yourself, so it’s essential you build a company culture around safe practices. When everyone participates in maintaining a risk-free environment, everyone wins.
2. Get Leadership Buy-In
Company leaders should be at the core of your safety initiatives. Their positions as leaders set the example for the rest of your team. Keep in mind they also have the potential ability to thwart or support your efforts. They need to see the value behind your ideas and initiatives in order to give you their total support.
3. Implement a Hazard Identification and Assessment Plan
One of the most effective ways you can find and manage workplace risks and hazards, build your safety culture, and gain support from company leaders is to implement a hazard identification and assessment plan. This plan is an actionable step-by-step process devoted specifically to helping you find and mitigate potential workplace health and safety risks.
According to OSHA, steps of the plan include the following:
Collect and Review Existing Information on Workplace Hazards
Take some time to review your records of previously noted hazards and incidents. This information should give you a good starting point for your ongoing investigations.
Inspect the Workplace for New or Existing Hazards
The workplace is an evolving dynamic. New hazards can prevent themselves at any time, especially at your company brings in new equipment, employees, or processes.
Make time to regularly inspect the workplace for any new hazards that may have arisen. Even the simple moving around of equipment can lead to potential risks that weren’t there the day before.
Identify Potential Health Hazards
Finding potential health risks is more complicated than safety risks because you’re not always able to physically view them. Rather, you must consider environmental concerns, chemical risks, ergonomic risks, and other factors that could have an effect on someone’s health days, weeks, or even years later.
Conduct Thorough Incident Investigations
You should already have a plan in place to conduct incident investigations, but reviewing this information can also help you mitigate future risks and safety hazards. These reports can give you better insight into locating risks and understanding what’s already being done to combat them from occurring again.
Identify Hazards for Nonroutine or Emergency Occurrences
Every company has the one-in-a-million type risks that aren’t likely to occur, but could. It’s important you don’t neglect such risks, because in the rare event they do happen, you’ll need an action plan to handle them. These might include fires or explosions, hazardous spills, medical emergencies, or even violence between employees.
Identify the Nature of Hazards and How to Prioritize Them
The final part is understanding how certain risks can lead to additional hazards. You should evaluate each risk and hazard by determining the severity of the outcome, how many workers will be exposed, and the likelihood of the event occurring.
From this information, you can better prioritize the hazards so that you address the most serious first.
Each of the steps in OSHA’s Hazard Identification and Assessment Plan model can be made easier by using the right tools. For example, risk assessment software gives you a central data storage system that can give you insights into every aspect of your safety program. You can create checklists, assign tasks, and record observations that pertain to each of the above steps in the plan.
4. Measure Your Plan’s Impact Over Time
Finally, you should be prepared to measure the effectiveness of your plan and activities over time. Your goal should be to make a difference in your company’s safety, so measuring your success over time can help you know where you need to fill any gaps.