Managing health and safety hazards is key to operational excellence in the work place - regardless of its size. Where possible, you should always try to remove or eliminate hazards from the workplace, for example by using a different process, or changing the way a job is done.
If it is not possible to eliminate the hazard, below are 6 steps to determine the most effective measures to control workplace hazards and to minimise risk.
Step 1: Design or re-organise to eliminate hazards
It is often cheaper and more practical to eliminate hazards at the design or planning stage of a product, process or place used for work. In these early phases, there is greater scope to design out hazards or incorporate risk control measures that are compatible with the original design and functional requirements. For example, remove trip hazards on the floor or dispose of unwanted chemicals.
Step 2: Substitute the hazard with something safer
If it is not reasonably practical to eliminate the hazards and associated risks, you should minimise the risk. For example, today the dangers associated with asbestos are well known and there are numerous alternatives to asbestos products currently on the market including cellulose fibre, thermoset plastic flour or polyurethane foams. Replacing solvent- based paints with water-based ones is also a better alternative.
Step 3: Isolate the hazard from people
This involves physically separating the source of harm from people by distance or using barriers. For example, introducing a strict work area, using guard rails around exposed edges and holes in the floors, using remote control systems to operate machinery, enclosing a noisy process from a person and storing chemicals in a fume cabinet.
Step 4: Use engineering controls
An engineering control is a control measure that is physical in nature, including a mechanical device or process. For example this can be done through the use of machine guards, effective ventilation systems and setting work rates on a roster to reduce fatigue.
Step 5: Use administrative controls
Administrative controls are work methods or procedures that are designed to minimise exposure to a hazard. Establish appropriate procedures and safe work practices such as; limit exposure time to a hazardous task so that fewer employees are exposed, routine maintenance and housekeeping procedures, training on hazards and correct work methods and use signs to warn people of a hazard.
Step 6: Use Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
Provide suitable and properly maintained PPE and ensure employees are trained in its proper use. Examples include gloves, earplugs, face masks, hard hats, gloves, aprons and protective eyewear. PPE limits exposure to harmful effects of a hazard but only if workers wear and use the PPE correctly.
This article is provided by APHA Major Sponsor Gow-Gates Group.