One of the primary causes of illnesses, injuries, and incidents in the workplace is failing to recognize or correctly identify the existing occupational hazards present or that you could otherwise anticipate. An essential element of any effective health and safety program is an ongoing, proactive process to identify and further assess such occupational hazards effectively. This is the importance of risk assessments. To more properly identify and further assess these hazards, employees should collect and review the information present about the particular occupational hazards present or likely to become present in their workplace. 

Your employees should also conduct initial and subsequent workplace inspections to correctly identify recurring or new hazards. It’s essential to thoroughly investigate illnesses, injuries, close calls, and other health and safety hazards to determine the underlying hazards, their root causes, and health and safety program shortcomings. In this article, we’ll discuss these and other essential steps for workplace risk assessments so you can more effectively identify and mitigate hazards for success.

risk assessment

Hazard Identification and Risk Assessment

In addition to reviewing present information, conducting initial and subsequent inspections, and investigating and determining underlying causes and health and safety program shortcomings, there are more essential steps for more effective workplace risk assessments. It’s crucial to group similar incidents in order to identify potential trends in illnesses, injuries, and hazards reported. Employees should consider hazards associated with nonroutine and emergencies. Finally, you should determine the likelihood and severity of incidents after hazard identification to see what could result from each hazard. 

Proper hazard identification followed by a risk assessment is arguably the most effective way to mitigate workplace hazards. These steps will allow you to use the information gained to prioritize corrective actions more effectively. Some hazards, such as tripping and housekeeping safety hazards, can and should be fixed as employees find them. Resolving or otherwise mitigating safety hazards at the moment helps to emphasize the importance of health and safety while also allowing you to take advantage of a safety leadership opportunity.

Collect Existing Information

Information regarding workplace hazards may already be readily available to you from both external and internal sources. You should collect, organize and review this information with your employees for a thorough health risk assessment that determines the types of hazards and which employees are at risk. Such information includes safety data sheets, machinery, and equipment operating manuals, records of previous illnesses and injuries, inspection reports, workers’ compensation records, and patterns of recurring illnesses and injuries. Other information includes exposure monitoring results, industrial hygiene assessments, existing health and safety programs, input from employees such as surveys or health committee meeting minutes, and results of workplace hazard analyses. 

Inspect for Hazards

Hazards can arise over time as processes and workstations change, tools or equipment become worn, employees neglect maintenance, or housekeeping practices decline. It’s essential to set aside time for regular health and safety inspections to correctly identify shortcomings so employees can address them before an incident occurs. Conduct regular health risk assessments of all equipment, operations, and work areas and document your inspections. Some areas to focus your health risk assessments include slip, trip, and fall hazards, general housekeeping, electrical hazards, equipment maintenance, equipment operation, fire protection, work practices, work organization, and process flows, workplace violence, work practices, and lack of emergency procedures.

health risk assessment

Identify Health Hazards

Identifying employees’ exposure to health hazards is generally more complex than with physical safety hazards. Vapors and gases can be invisible, often have no odor, and may not have an immediately noticeable health effect. Health hazards include chemical hazards, physical hazards, and ergonomic risks. Chemical hazards include adhesives, solvents, paints, and toxic dust. Physical hazards include radiation, noise, and heat. Biological hazards include infectious diseases. Ergonomic risks include repetitive motions, heavy lifting, and vibration. Observe chemical product labels, physical hazards, employee disease exposure, work activities, air sampling or direct reading instruments, and redacted medical records.

Conduct Incident Investigations

Workplace incidents, close calls, and reports of other concerns help identify existing hazards. By thoroughly investigating incidents, you can resolve or otherwise mitigate such hazards and prevent harm. The purpose of your investigations is to identify the root causes of a given incident or concern to prevent future occurrences. Develop a straightforward incident investigation procedure, train investigative teams on risk identification and resolution techniques, conduct your investigations with a trained team, investigate close calls, identify and analyze root causes, and communicate your findings to other managers, supervisors, and other employees to prevent a reoccurrence. Your plan should address who is involved, materials, equipment, and supplies needed, lines of communication, and reporting templates and forms. 

Identify Non-Routine and Emergency Hazards

Present hazards need recognition and understanding. Infrequent or nonroutine tasks, such as startup/shutdown activities and maintenance activities, are also potential hazards. Procedures need to be developed for appropriate responses to health and safety hazards associated with foreseeable non-routine and emergency situations. Identify foreseeable scenarios and tasks.

Characterize Identified Hazards

Your next step is to assess and understand the identified hazards and the particular types of incidents that could arise, given employee exposure to these hazards. 

Identify Control Measures

You can then use the gained information to develop interim controls and prioritize hazards for permanent control. Evaluate each health and safety hazard by considering the potential severity of outcomes should an event or exposure occur.

Prioritize Control Hazards

Use interim control measures to protect employees until you can implement more permanent solutions. Finally, prioritize existing and potential hazards so that you address hazards presenting the most significant possible risk. Employers have an ongoing obligation to control and mitigate all serious hazards and protect their employees.

hazard identification

Identify and Mitigate Hazard With Singer Safety

Once you understand the steps and details of effective workplace risk assessments, you can enjoy all the impactful benefits of Singer Safety’s products. As Chicagoland experts for industrial barrier protection, we remain the top choice for the highest quality products, including noise control systems, industrial curtains, vinyl strip doors, welding and safety screens, fire safety equipment, and automotive curtain systems.