What is a Hazard Assessment? Similarities between Safety & Health?

A hazard assessment is a systematic review of situations that may cause injury or illness to people at a workplace or those in the community. The results should be documented in writing. Provincial governments & the federal governments of Canada & the U.S. all mandate that  employers conduct hazard assessments. Both health & safety hazards must be included.

Don’t forget the health hazards!73329588

A hazard could be a piece of equipment, an air contaminant, noise, or the work space, itself.  It is often defined by how the worker interacts with the equipment or the environment. There is no hazard if the worker will never encounter the problem. For example, if asbestos is enclosed behind a wall, there is no hazard. There is a hazard if workers will open the wall and perform maintenance. This will liberate the asbestos.  Similarly, asbestos in floor tiles is not a hazard until the tiles are removed or polished. Steps in a hazard assessment are as follows:

  1.  First, hazards or potential hazards must be identified.j0289890

Safety – This may be as simple as identifying a tripping hazard, i.e. a metal pipe laying unsecured in the middle of a walkway.

Health – Or you may see a plume of fine sand blowing into a workers face over the course of the day. This person may be overexposed to silica.j0216017


2.  Second, hazards must be evaluated for risk or the potential to cause injury or illness.

Health & Safety – Often the concepts of probability & severity are used when there are a large number of hazards being evaluated simultaneously. Probability is the frequency with which the hazard is expected to be encountered. Severity is how severe the resulting injury or illness is expected to be once the person is exposed. Sometimes a simple priority indicator is used in lieu of risk for how urgent the repair is…i.e. 1 being urgent, correct right away;  to 4, can monitor for a period of time.AA023077

Safety – When considering a specific situation, the actual safety hazard may need to be measured. An example is how close a mobile vehicle with an antenna is to a power line, or how deep the trench is when workers are inside.

Health – For a specific health hazard, the hazard should be quantified. This helps to determine potential health effects & whether the exposure exceeds acceptable limits (legal exposure limits), or other best practice exposure guidelines. For example, industrial noise needs to be measured.

Microphone isolated on white

Industrial noise that exceeds provincial or federal limits has a high potential to cause noise-induced hearing loss in workers. Hearing protectors are not always of the correct type, are not always inserted correctly, or are not always worn.

j0302854Chemical exposures are often measured using personal air sampling. Where this is not available, and there are large numbers of exposures to consider, other techniques such as “Control Banding” may be used. More about this in a future blog.

In Conclusion

  1. Both health & safety hazards must be included in a hazard assessment. Health hazards must not be ignored!
  2. There is no hazard if no one is expected to be exposed.

Blog Administrator, Carolyn Wisdom.  Honours B.Sc.(Biology),  B.S. (Environmental Health), M.Sc.(Mold/Microbiology), Post Graduate Program-Industrial Hygiene, CIH(Certified Industrial Hygienist), CRSP(Canadian Registered Safety Professional), Certified External COR Auditor (Enform).