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Hazard identification and assessment
  • To properly assess the risks posed by hazards, employers first need to identify all potential hazards.
  • Employers should include assessments of emergency and non-routine situations that may arise.

“Risk” is the product of hazard and exposure. Thus, risk can be reduced by controlling or eliminating the hazard or by reducing workers’ exposure to hazards. An assessment of risk helps employers understand hazards in the context of their own workplaces and prioritize hazards for permanent control.

One of the root causes of workplace injuries, illnesses, and incidents is the failure to identify or recognize hazards that are present, or that could have been anticipated. A critical element of any effective safety and health program is a proactive, ongoing process to identify and assess such hazards.

To identify and assess hazards, employers and workers should:

  • Collect and review information about the hazards present or likely to be present in the workplace.
  • Conduct initial and periodic workplace inspections of the workplace to identify new or recurring hazards.
  • Investigate injuries, illnesses, incidents, and close calls/near misses to determine the underlying hazards, their causes, and safety and health program shortcomings.
  • Group similar incidents and identify trends in injuries, illnesses, and hazards reported.
  • Consider hazards associated with emergency or non-routine situations.
  • Determine the severity and likelihood of incidents that could result for each hazard identified, and use this information to prioritize corrective actions.

Some hazards, such as housekeeping and tripping hazards, can and should be fixed as they are found. Fixing hazards on the spot emphasizes the importance of safety and health and takes advantage of a safety leadership opportunity.

Emergency and non-routine situations

Emergencies present hazards that need to be recognized and understood. Non-routine or infrequent tasks, including maintenance and startup/shutdown activities, also present potential hazards. Develop plans and procedures for responding appropriately and safely to hazards associated with foreseeable emergency scenarios and non-routine situations.

Identify foreseeable emergency scenarios and non-routine tasks, taking into account the types of material and equipment in use and the location within the facility. Scenarios such as the following may be foreseeable:

  • Fires and explosions;
  • Chemical releases;
  • Hazardous material spills;
  • Startups after planned or unplanned equipment shutdowns;
  • Non-routine tasks, such as infrequently performed maintenance activities;
  • Structural collapse;
  • Disease outbreaks;
  • Weather emergencies and natural disasters;
  • Medical emergencies; and
  • Workplace violence.