By definition, a hazard is anything that has the potential to cause harm to people, damage to property or environment, or loss to process.
OSHA defines hazard as the potential for harm that is associated with a condition or activity that if left uncontrolled can result in injury or illness.
Meanwhile, according to OHSAS 18001:1999, the hazard is a source or situation with a potential for harm in terms of human injury or illness health, damage to property, damage to the workplace environment, or a combination of these.
Hazard recognition or hazard identification is vitally important in accident prevention. By recognizing hazards’ characteristics and properties, we can clearly determine proper controls. Unfortunately, the majority of us sometimes overlook recognizing hazards.
Hazard Recognition Methods
There are many hazard recognition methods. The more hazard recognition methods we know, the bigger our chances to recognize all-hazard that exist in workplaces.
A hazard might not be identified by a certain method, but it can be detected by another method. Principally, we need to assure that hazard recognition is completely done.
The following are the most useful hazard recognition methods:
1. Pre-Use Analysis
2. Multi-Step Planning Process
3. Work Permitting
4. Equipment Inspections
5. Suggestion Method
6. Walkthrough Safety and Health Audits
7. Safety Patrol
Now, lets talks about these methods one by one.
Pre-Use Analysis can be applied before any new equipment, device, instrumentation, personal protective equipment, machine, tool, plant facility, etc are used. This method is applied before exposure to hazards.
Multi-Step Planning Process is applied before hazard exposure and applied to every task, job and activity. To apply this method simply ask a series of questions before doing the task, job, or activity. The question should be similar to:
a. What am I going to do?
b. What is the purpose to do this job, task, or activity?
c. How will I do that job, task, or activity?
d. How could I get hurt doing this job, task, or activity?
e. What will I do to prevent accidents (injury, illness health)?
Work Permitting is issued before the job, task, or activity done. Some questions asked and a checklist shall be completed to assured that hazards are not overlooked. Commonly, including in the checklist are analysis of toxic gas (such as carbon monoxide), oxygen sufficiency, flammable gas concentration, etc.
Equipment Inspection is implemented on any equipment before it is used or put into operation. Equipment inspection is planned and organized to check overall equipment conditions, safety protective equipment, guarding, emergency stop, etc.
In the Suggestion Method, every worker is encouraged to propose or suggest potential hazards (and control) that are contained in a job, task, or activity. Workers consider their past time experiences on the shop floor and field to give suggestions and this is a very good safety habit. This method can be used for improving current safety conditions.
Safety Patrol can be carried out by every worker in the plant site, not only by persons who are in charge of health and safety. Safety patrol may be done during a piece of equipment running, plant operation, plant shut down, or whenever it is intended to identify potential hazards.
The best way to use these hazard recognition methods is by combining these methods one with the others.
The next question is when is the right time to apply these hazard recognition methods? Of course, before being exposed to the hazards is the best time because at that time no one was injured, ill, or dead, and no property damage.
However, during a job, task or activity is being done hazard recognition is still important in accident prevention, and we can stop or cancel the job, task or activity at any time whenever we see a potential hazard to cause injury, ill-health, or plant facility damage.
Hazards may also be recognized after a job, task or activity has been completely performed and we can plan hazard control improvement to the job.