Hazard Assessments – Uncovering the secrets to keeping workplaces safeBack to The PIG® Library
When walking around your facility, you may notice signs that read, "All Personnel Must Wear Safety Glasses," or "Hearing Protection Required in this Area." Or perhaps there's a policy at your workplace that states "All Employees on the Shop Floor Must Wear Steel-Toed Boots." What is the purpose behind these policies? How did the people who made the rules know what Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) should be worn? The answer is simple. These policies are set and determined thanks to hazard assessments — a straightforward job aid that helps to ensure your employees and your company are properly protected.
What is a Hazard Assessment?
A hazard assessment is an analysis performed at a workplace to identify hazards that can help establish what PPE is required. 29 CFR 1910.132(d)(1) cites that "all employers shall assess their workplace to determine if hazards are present, or are likely to be present, which necessitate the use of PPE."
How do you start the hazard assessment process? There is no official form for a hazard assessment. A simple way to create one is to list all of the common hazards for the workplace. This includes, but is not limited to:
- Eye Hazards
- Head and Face Hazards
- Hand Hazards
- Foot Hazards
- Body Hazards
- Noise Hazards
- Respiratory Hazard
Within each of the identified hazard areas, identify specific concerns that could occur at your workplace, such as chemicals, dust, light (optical) radiation, heat, electrical shock, impact, punctures, cuts, fumes, mists, vapors and any other hazards that may be present. For each work area, indicate whether or not the hazard exists. If it does, describe the hazard. Some companies break the workplace up by department or station because the work varies from area to area.
After the Hazard Assessment
Once possible hazards are identified, it's important to take precautions to protect workers from them. CFR 1910.132(d)(1) continues, "If hazards are present, the employer shall select and have affected employees use PPE that will protect them from the hazards identified in the hazard assessment." To select the proper PPE, OSHA provides requirements in 29 CFR 1910.132-138, as well as 29 CFR 1910.95.
Employers are also responsible for communicating the selection decisions to each affected employee. This means employers should set aside time to train employees and explain what, how, when, where and why employees need to wear PPE.
Finally, OSHA requires that employers verify that the required hazard assessment has been performed through a written certification that identifies the workplace evaluated, the person certifying that the evaluation has been performed, and the date(s) of the hazard assessment.
One common question is, "How often must you perform hazard assessments?" There is no timetable for updates. However, employers must review when technology, operations or processes are revised and update as necessary.
A hazard assessment helps employers identify workplace hazards and supports the PPE selection chosen to help protect employees. Remember: PPE is the last step in hazard control. If you can remove the hazard, engineer it out or provide administrative controls to protect employees, do those first. But if none of those is possible, PPE is an effective and sound method of protecting your employees, and Hazard Assessments will help you determine how to protect them properly. Remember, keeping the workplace as safe as possible is one of the most important responsibilities of being an employer.