May 7, 2006
Identifying hazards in your workplace will often amount to a one-person show â€” with that person being the safety pro. Youâ€™ll find scant agreement among management personnel when it comes to what is, or constitutes, a hazard.
Why? Initially itâ€™s due to ignorance, and ultimately a matter of embarrassment and pride.
Before you disagree to the point of turning to the next article, allow me to elaborate.
Part and parcel of every safety proâ€™s job is to recognize hazards â€” find them, bring them into the light of the day, reveal their existence to those with the personnel or purse strings to correct, and monitor future corrected states. It might sound easy, but of course there are difficulties in the process.
Your biggest headaches will likely be with personalities, specifically those in charge of the areas where you discover hazards. To put it diplomatically, feelings get hurt. Youâ€™ve pointed out hazards in someone elseâ€™s area of business, so to speak, and so you have the potential for conflict.
Iâ€™ve learned through years spent attempting to ease hurt feelings that there is one response that allows me to be true to the safety effort (and myself): â€œGet over it.â€
Might seem a bit heartless, but it goes with the territory.
Potential conflictsHazard identification a source of conflict? Think about it.
- Have you ever had an employee (supervisor, manager, etc.) argue the merit of the hazard discovered and then, at a later date, point the same type of hazard out to you within someone elseâ€™s department?
- Has the same employee pointed out a similar hazard to you in such a way as to question your ability to spot hazards?
- Has the same employee argued the merits of the reality of a non-hazard in front of the bosses, as if to showcase his/her ability to understand hazards better than you do?
- Have you ever been on the receiving end of an OSHA inspection?
Not everyone will argue with you. But many people just cannot accept anyone coming into their areas and pointing out deficiencies, unsatisfactory conditions or behaviors, or uncontrolled hazards.
Too many people take it personally â€” including safety pros who discover after pointing out hazards that there are people whoâ€™d rather kick them than work with them. Or find themselves accused of pushing a hidden agenda or just trying to embarrass someone. So my response â€” to myself, that is â€” is: â€œGet over it.â€ Get over the resistance. If you canâ€™t take this attitude, youâ€™ll find your â€œfireâ€ goes out pretty quickly.
Data gatheringOK, enough of the interpersonal relationship stuff. Letâ€™s talk about the art (yes, art) of identifying hazards, although I prefer to think of the process as â€œprotecting peopleâ€ rather than pointing out problems. At my workplace, we collect data on a weekly to monthly basis, of all operational areas and ancillary structures within our operation. The request for a hazard inspection comes in the form of a preventive maintenance work order generated automatically once the task date arrives.
Data is collected from inspection sheets that have been tailored to each of the specific areas, thus providing a meaningful activity to those assigned the responsibility for the inspection.
Should inspections result in any deficiencies, the bottom of the form provides space for entries regarding with whom results were discussed, whether work orders were generated, etc.
Completed inspections are forwarded to departmental management for review, assignment of corrections (as necessary), sign-off, and forwarding to safety. We will review the inspections, perform random checks of those areas inspected, perform work order and corrections checks, and report the data in graphic form via chart.
The power of postingI initiated our hazard identification process in 1999 and 51 inspections were performed that year. Progress with acceptance was slow, especially by those who took offense that their areas were found to be in need of improvement. Acceptance was ultimately gained after I started to post the graph on the bulletin board and pass it out at the staff meetings.
In the event that results (hazards) appear again and again, we prepare a spreadsheet showing the individual items from the inspection form and when and how often they appear.
This allows us to review the frequency and discuss meaningful corrective actions (corrective actions that strike the â€œcauseâ€ of the deficiency) rather than simple fixes that only address the symptoms of the problem.
Key to successI believe our approach has been successful for several reasons:
1 â€” Do not accept â€œNoâ€ from those people and departments that have the greatest need, and therefore will benefit the most, from hazard identification processes.
2 â€” Prepare the individual inspection forms so as to be meaningful, not difficult to complete, and not easy to fake (i.e., to complete while sitting at a desk).
3 â€” Program the conduct of the task to follow what is already in place (i.e., follow the same work order or task assignment process that is in place).
4 â€” Follow up in a purposeful way, rather than a personal way.
There will be those who still attempt to charge three hours for a one-hour task, those who give a cursory look rather than follow the forms and those who sign off but do not review the results. But with our efforts, that occurs less frequently now that safety has brought the quality department into the review process. Identifying hazards is not personal, as long as youâ€™re professional.
Sidebar: Identifying hazards at Oâ€™Hare Transit
- Data is collected on a weekly to monthly basis.
- All operational areas and ancillary structures within the Oâ€™Hare International Airport Transit System are subject to data collection.
- The request for a hazard inspection comes in the form of a preventive maintenance work order generated automatically once the task date arrives.
- Data is collected from inspection sheets tailored to each specific area.
- Customized inspection sheets aid those assigned the responsibility for the inspection.
- If deficiencies are discovered during inspections, the bottom of the form provides space to document with whom the report was discussed, whether work orders were generated, and other actions to follow.
- Completed inspection forms are forwarded to department management for review, assignment of corrections (as necessary), sign-off, and forwarding to the safety department.
- Safety personnel review inspections, perform random checks of those areas inspected, perform work order and corrections checks, and report data in graphic form via chart.
- Posting hazard identification data in graph form on the bulletin board and passing it around at the staff meetings drove acceptance of the need to identify risks.
- If results (hazards) are discovered again and again, a spreadsheet is prepared showing the individual items from the inspection form and when and how often they appear.
- This allows safety to review the frequency and discuss meaningful corrective actions (corrective actions that strike the â€œcauseâ€ of the deficiency) rather than simple fixes that only address the symptoms of the problem.
Sidebar: Be prepared to deal with these pitfalls to identifying hazards:
- People who take three hours for a one-hour hazard inspection.
- Those who give a cursory look for hazards rather than follow customized forms specifying hazards to look for in each area or department.
- Individuals who sign off on hazard inspections but do not review the results.