Identifying Workplace Hazards

A job hazard analysis is an exercise in detective work. Your goal is to discover the following:
  • What can go wrong?
  • What are the consequences?
  • How could it arise?
  • What are other contributing factors?
  • How likely is it that the hazard will occur?
To make your job hazard analysis useful, document the answers to these questions in a consistent manner. Describing a hazard in this way helps to ensure that your efforts to eliminate it and implement controls help target the most important contributors to the hazard.
Good hazard scenarios describe:
  • Where it is happening (environment),
  • Who or what it is happening to (exposure),
  • What precipitates the hazard (trigger),
  • The outcome that would occur should it happen (consequence), and
  • Any other contributing factors.
Rarely is a hazard a simple case of one singular cause resulting in one singular effect. More frequently, many contributing factors tend to line up in a certain way to create the hazard. Here is an example of a hazard scenario:
  • In the metal shop (environment), while clearing a snag (trigger), a worker's hand (exposure) comes into contact with a rotating pulley. It pulls his hand into the machine and severs his fingers (consequences) quickly.
To perform a job hazard analysis, you should ask the following questions.
  • What can go wrong?
  • The worker's hand could come into contact with a rotating object that "catches" it and pulls it into the machine.
  • What are the consequences?
  • The worker could receive a severe injury and lose fingers and hands.
  • How could it happen?
  • The accident could happen as a result of the worker trying to clear a snag during operations or as part of a maintenance activity while the pulley is operating. Obviously, this hazard scenario could not occur if the pulley is not rotating.
  • What are other contributing factors?
  • This hazard occurs very quickly. It does not give the worker much opportunity to recover or prevent it once his hand comes into contact with the pulley. This is an important factor, because it helps you determine the severity and likelihood of an accident when selecting appropriate hazard controls. Unfortunately, experience has shown that training is not very effective in hazard control when triggering events happen quickly because humans can react only so quickly.
  • How likely is it that the hazard will occur?
  • This determination requires some judgment. If there have been "near-misses" or actual cases, then the likelihood of a recurrence would be considered high. If the pulley is exposed and easily accessible, that also is a consideration.
  • In the example, the likelihood that the hazard will occur is high because there is no guard preventing contact, and the operation is performed while the machine is running.

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