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Hazard assessment is a process to identify, assess, and eliminate or manage workplace hazards and the risks they present to a worker’s well-being. Hazards are generally defined as any source of potential damage, harm or adverse effect on something or someone. A hazard can be anything, including a condition, situation, practice, or behavior. A risk assessment is where the hazards are analyzed to determine the likelihood and severity of harm, and to identify actions necessary to eliminate the hazard or control the risk.
Workplaces with 20 or more workers must establish an occupational health and safety program, which includes a hazard assessment process. This process must include:
- A method to evaluate the workplace and identify potential hazards;
- Procedures and schedules for regular inspections;
- Procedures to make sure hazards are reported, and that a person is accountable for correcting the hazards;
- Procedures to outline the circumstances when a hazard must be reported by the employer to the committee or representative, and how this report will be made; and
- A system for workplace occupational health and safety monitoring, prompt follow-up and control of identified hazards.
The Hazard Assessment Process
In general, the workplace should include a three step hazard assessment process. The process includes:
- 1. Hazard Identification
- Identify sources that expose a worker to a risk of injury or disease.
- 2. Risk Assessment
- Determine the risk to rank the hazard by priority. Risk is a combination of the likelihood of harm and its severity.
- 3. Hazard Control
- Identify actions necessary to eliminate the hazard, or control the risk using the hierarchy of risk control methods.
It is important to monitor the hazard to ensure that implemented controls continue to be effective. Keep documents and records that may be necessary, including detailed procedures to assess the risk, evaluations and details regarding decisions made to control the hazard.
Performing Hazard Identification
There are many ways that one can identify a hazard. The simplest approach is by performing an inspection while walking around the workplace. During the inspection, discuss hazards with workers and seek input into how the hazard may be controlled. The safety committee or representative is also a valuable source of information and can provide incident records to help identify hazards.
Performing a Risk Assessment
To properly assess the risk associated with a hazard, you must determine:
- The Probability - the likelihood that exposure to a hazardous thing or condition would cause an injury, disease or some incidence causing damage. When determining probability, consider how a person is exposed (route of exposure), how often, and how much exposure occurs.
- The Severity - the gravity of the harm or the level of damage that may result.
A risk matrix is a common tool that can be used to increase the visibility of risk and help in the decision making process. To summarize, Risk = Probability X Severity.
It is important to remember that the assessment must take into account both the current state of the workplace and any potential situations that may occur. Consider normal operational situations as well as non-standard events such as maintenance shutdowns, power outages, emergencies, extreme weather, etc. To better understand the hazard, review all available health and safety information such as Safety Data Sheet (SDS), manufacturer’s literature, information from reputable organizations, results of testing, workplace inspection reports, and records of workplace accidents (including information about the type and frequency of the occurrence, illnesses, injuries, near misses, etc.).
Identifying Hazard Controls
By determining the level of risk associated with the hazard, the employer in collaboration with the safety committee or representative can set a priority and determine what actions are necessary to control the hazards. Using the hierarchy of hazard controls, risk of harm can be minimized, or even eliminated, by implementing the control components such as:
- Engineering Controls
- Administrative Controls
- Personal Protective Equipment
Workers can assist by:
- discussing their concerns with the inspection team;
- actively participating in the hazard assessment process; and
- reporting concerns to their supervisor, safety committee or representative.
OCCUPATIONAL HEALTH AND SAFETY ACT
R.S.P.E.I. 1988, c. O-1.01
Section 23 Occupational health and safety program
23. (1) Where 20 or more workers are regularly employed
(a) by an employer other than a constructor or contractor; or
(b) directly by a constructor or contractor,
the employer, constructor or contractor shall establish, and review at least annually, a written occupational health and safety program, in consultation with the committee or representative, if any.
(2) For the purposes of subsection (1), a worker is not regularly employed directly by a constructor or contractor if the worker works with the constructor or contractor as an independent contractor.
(3) An occupational health and safety program shall include
(a) provisions for the training and supervision of workers in matters necessary to their occupational health and safety and the occupational health and safety of other persons at or near the workplace;
(b) provisions for
(i) the preparation of written work procedures for the implementation of occupational health and safety work practices, required by this Act, the regulations or by order of an officer, and
(ii) the identification of the types of work for which the procedures are required at the employer's workplace;
(c) provisions for the establishment and continued operation of a committee required by this Act, including maintenance of records of membership, rules of procedure, access to a level of management with authority to resolve occupational health and safety matters, and information required by this Act or the regulations;
(d) provisions for the selection and functions of a representative where required by this Act, including provision for access by the representative to a level of management with authority to resolve occupational health and safety matters;
(e) a hazard identification system that includes
(i) evaluation of the workplace to identify potential hazards,
(ii) procedures and schedules for regular inspections,
(iii) procedures for ensuring the reporting of hazards and the accountability of persons responsible for the correction of hazards, and
(iv) identification of the circumstances where hazards shall be reported by the employer to the committee or representative, if any, and the procedures for doing so;
(f) a system for workplace occupational health and safety monitoring, prompt follow-up and control of identified hazards;
(g) a system for the prompt investigation of hazardous occurrences to determine their causes and the actions needed to prevent recurrences;
(h) the maintenance of records and statistics, including reports of occupational health and safety inspections and investigations, with provision for making the reports available to persons entitled to receive them under this Act; and
(i) provisions for monitoring the implementation and effectiveness of the program.
(4) The employer shall make a copy of the program established under this section available
(a) to the committee or representative, if any; and
(b) on request, to a worker at the workplace.
(5) The results of a workplace harassment investigation do not constitute a report for the purposes of clause (3)(h).
[S.P.E.I. 2018, c. 45, s. 5]