Don’t forget existing hazards
Follow these tips for identifying and fixing workplace hazards that have always been a threat.
posted July 13, 2020
With the current heightened focus on coronavirus protections, it’s easy to forget every workplace has many other hazards that also should be identified and controlled.
Courtney Merriott, senior safety management consultant at SAIF, has seen recent examples among Oregon businesses of why this is true.
“We have seen some companies be so focused on keeping up with coronavirus changes that well-known and understood hazards are causing injuries,” Merriott says.
So what’s a hazard? Simply put, it’s anything that can cause physical injury, health effects, or property damage in a workplace. Below are ways to not only identify them, but also assess and control them.
When it comes to a safe workplace, everyone plays a role. While a safety committee must perform regular safety inspections, hazard identification should be part of every employee’s daily routine.
“Employees must feel comfortable and encouraged to report hazards in the workplace,” Merriott says.
Oregon OSHA requires employers to have a hazard reporting process in place. To be most effective, the process must be clear-whether it involves completing a written report or verbally reporting to a manager or safety committee member-and communicated across the organization.
It’s important to not only document hazards, but also note actions that can be taken to correct them. You can use our generic department inspection form as a starting point.
When it comes to assessing hazards, consider probability and severity. Here are questions you can ask about a hazard that has been identified:
- How can someone get hurt?
- How likely is the injury or illness to occur?
- How severe will the injury or illness be if or when it does?
“Asking these questions will help employers decide which hazards to act on first,” Merriott says.
To reduce risk and to control hazards, consider this pyramid.
Also known as the hierarchy of controls, this pyramid can help you to identify the best way to address a hazard in your workplace.
“Even though we are all concerned about the risks of COVID-19, remember there are other workplace hazards. Identifying and controlling them is still important,” Merriott says.
Visit our page on common hazards in the workplace for more hazard identification resources in both English and Spanish.