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Safety has about as many facets as there are entries in the dictionary, but a lot of the work of EHS revolves around one thing: identifying and controlling hazards.
A hazard – any object, situation, or behavior with the potential to cause injury, illness, or damage – is the root of safety issues. When we talk about a dangerous workplace, nine times out of ten we actually mean a hazardous workplace. Those hazards could be almost anything, from machinery to allergens to chemicals to psychological safety.
So how do you identify a hazardous workplace? Sure, you have checklists and data, but on the most basic level, how do you know if your workplace is hazardous? What do you do? Here are a few of the simplest ways to spot a hazardous workplace.
The first one should be obvious: walk around! Get out of your office, get your protective glasses on, and take a walk around the workplace. After all, if you want to know where the hazards are, you have to go where the hazards are, and you have to be willing to get your hands dirty (so to speak).
Walking around is often limited to inspections or audits. In reality, a workplace circuit should be part of a safety professional’s daily ritual. It gives you the lay of the land and a sense of scope.
Keep in mind that walking around only gives you a snapshot of a moment in time, so it may not be universally informative. That’s why you should take a walk during everyday work and unusual work too – changes in work patterns are likely to shake up hazards that you might not notice otherwise.
Also, don’t just go to the usual places. Take the time to walk around places you might not ordinarily visit–those are areas where hazards can often hide.
When you’re walking around, don’t just carry on whistling Dixie. Take the time to pay attention and observe, especially taking the time to observe specific workplace activities. This gives you a chance to notice small details you might have otherwise overlooked, though it may take longer depending on the job task.
If you can, watch the full cycle of work, or even multiple cycles of work. This gives you a chance to watch safety from start to finish, as well as safety practices during the changeover. Look at a lot of people doing the same task, as this will give you a better baseline for comparison.
Last but not least, go to the most reliable source: your employees.
In most workplaces, your overall workforce significantly outnumbers your EHS team. That’s a good thing, in this case, because it means that employees serve as your eyes and ears in places where safety reps can’t see.
Plus, there’s no better way to get a sense of how a job is done than to ask the people who do it. They can speak honestly to how a job is performed every day–even when the bosses aren’t looking. The key is to cultivate a safety culture and relationship with your employees where they feel comfortable speaking up, even if it gets other employees in trouble.
You walked. You watched. You talked. And you got a sense of whether or not you have a hazardous workplace. What comes next?
Once you have data, you need a way to collate it into usable observations and practical solutions. That’s where our safety management system software can help, making it easy to turn observations into results.
Let’s change the way you think about safety. Get in touch today to learn more about how our software can help.
Since 2009, the team at EHS Insight have been on a mission to make the world a better place. Join us by subscribing to our Blog and receive updates on what’s new in the world of EHS, our software and other related topics.
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