Every year there are about 2.8 million non-fatal workplace accidents with the most common injuries being sprains, strains, and tears; and the highest cause to be overexertion; slips, trips, falls, and contact with objects and equipment.

Does your worksite or safety program have a hazard identification process?

Hazard Identification Defined

A common definition of hazard is “any source of potential damage, harm or adverse health effects on something or someone.”

Hazard identification is the part of the process used to evaluate if any particular situation, etc., may have the potential to cause harm. The full process is called risk assessment.

  • Identify hazards and risk factors that have the potential to cause harm (Hazard identification)
  • Analyze and evaluate the risk associated with that hazard (risk analysis, and risk evaluation)
  • Determine appropriate ways to eliminate the hazard or control the risk when the hazard cannot be eliminated (risk control)

The goal, find and record possible hazards that may be present in your workplace.

Hazard Identification Process

The process of identifying hazards can be done:

  • During design and implementation, such as when designing a new process or procedure
  • Before tasks are done, i.e., checking equipment or reviewing one’s surroundings before each shift
  • While tasks are being done, i.e., sudden emissions or abnormal conditions
  • During inspections, such as formal or informal inspections
  • After incidents, i.e., near misses or injuries

Hazards are commonly classified as:

Biological, which includes bacteria, viruses, insects, plants, birds, animals, and humans

Chemical depends on the physical, chemical and toxic properties of the chemical

Ergonomics, which includes repetitive movements, improper set up of workstation, etc.

Physical includes radiation, magnetic fields, temperature extremes

Psychosocial includes stress, violence

Safety includes slipping/tripping hazards, inappropriate machine guarding, equipment malfunctions

Identifying hazards – example

This is an example of how you can identify hazards in your workplace.

Look at all aspects of the work, including non-routine activities such as maintenance, repair, or cleaning.

Look at the physical work environment, equipment, materials, products, etc. that are used.

  • Review how tasks are done.
  • Look at injury and incident records.
  • Talk to those doing the work: they know their job and its hazards best.
  • Include all shifts, and people who work off site either at home, on other job sites, drivers, teleworkers, with clients, etc.
  • Determine whether a product, machine or equipment can be intentionally or unintentionally changed (e.g., a safety guard that could be removed).
  • Examine risks to visitors or the public.
  • Consider the groups of people that may have a different level of risk such as young or inexperienced workers, persons with disabilities, or new or expectant mothers.

Ask questions such as:

  • What materials or equipment could I be struck by?
  • What objects or equipment could I strike or hit my body upon, or that part of my body might be caught in, on, or between?
  • What could I fall from? (e.g., falls to lower levels)
  • What could I slip or trip on? (e.g., falls on same level)
  • How could I overexert myself?
  • What other situations could I come across?

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