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Basic hazard assessments: What you need to know

By Elyse Nabata

A hazard is a situation, condition, or thing that may be dangerous to the health and safety of workers. A hazard assessment is the process of identifying hazards and ways to eliminate or control them. Typically each workplace has its own hazard assessment process, so always make sure that you’re familiar with your company’s policy and procedures. Hazard assessments are best practice in the workplace and can also be applied to everyday life.

  1. Select the job to be analyzed

A ‘job’ consists of a task or series of tasks to be completed. Our example will be mowing the lawn.

  1. Break the job down into a sequence of steps:

Take out lawnmower and set it up

a. Start lawnmower
b. Mow lawn
c. Bag clippings
d. Discard clippings
e. Put lawnmower away

  1. Identify potential hazards

Before starting, go through each step and identify potential hazards that could occur. You are basically asking yourself “What if ___?” As an example, we’ll identify hazards for three steps of the job:

Step 1: Take out lawnmower and set it up

Hazards:

  • Slips, trips and falls
  • You may be handling gas, which is flammable and combustible

Step 2: Start lawnmower

Hazards:

  • Sound of the motor could cause hearing damage
  • Muscle strain from pulling starter cord

Step 3: Mow lawn

Hazards:

  • Moving blade of the motor
  • Lawnmower could kick up hidden rocks or objects in the grass
  • Slips, trips and falls
  1. Determine preventive measures to overcome these hazards

Now list ways that each hazard could be eliminated or controlled. Eliminating means removing the potential for the hazard to occur completely, and is usually the best option. Controls are ways to reduce the risk of the hazard. There are several categories of controls; to learn more, visit the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety’s website. In our example we’ll cover only a few hazards, but in real application ensure you cover all of them.

Hazard: Slips, trips and falls

CONTROLS:

  • Wear comfortable, sturdy footwear and ensure shoelaces are tied
  • Don’t wear baggy clothing that you could step on or get caught on things
  • Keep your eyes on the task at hand

Hazard: Muscle strain from pulling starter cord

CONTROLS:

  • Stretch arms to warm up before pulling cord

Hazard: Sound of the motor could cause hearing damage

CONTROLS:

  • Wear hearing protection

Hazard: Lawnmower could kick up hidden rocks or objects in the grass

CONTROLS:

  • Do a preliminary scan and remove any large objects in the grass
  • Wear eye protection
  1. Update as conditions change

When conditions change (e.g., change in weather, change in location, introduction of new substances, new steps in the process), it is very important to stop and reassess hazards, as new risks may have been introduced.

Remember these basic steps and you’ll be on your way to keeping yourself and others safe!

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