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Safety Risk Assessment Step 1: Gather Information

Fire / Emergency, Safety Tips

Before you can develop a comprehensive safety plan for your facility, you need to complete a workplace safety risk assessment. OSHA recommends a six-step method for doing this.

Step 1: Collect existing information about workplace hazards
Step 2: Inspect the workplace for safety hazards
Step 3: Identify health hazards
Step 4: Conduct incident investigations
Step 5: Identify hazards associated with emergency and non routine situations
Step 6: Characterize the nature of identified hazards, identify interim control measures, and prioritize the hazards for control

This post is the first in a series that will take you through the six steps of your safety risk assessment.


Let’s get started with Step 1

Your facility is more than just a workplace, it’s a place where coworkers become friends and practically family. When a workplace injury or illness occurs, it can have a major ripple effect throughout your company. It adds expense, it disrupts schedules and it can have a devastating impact on morale.

While the numbers for non-fatal injuries and illnesses have been steadily improving over the last five years according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, fatal injuries have actually been on the rise. In 2019, there were 5,333 work-related fatalities in the United States, our highest number since 2007. That’s one death every 99 minutes.

What are you doing to try to keep your accident-free days climbing? If you don’t know where to start, read on.

Gather Your Existing Information

One of the most important things you can do to avoid accidents in your workplace is to take the time for a workplace safety risk assessment to identify current and potential hazard areas. Knowing where potential problems are hiding empowers you to address them before they cause an accident that results in an injury — or worse. Here is the first step in that process.

You may not realize it, but you have a wealth of information already. You just need to find, study, and organize this information that you already have on hand. Consider some of the following sources:

1. Operating manuals for equipment and machinery
Machines and other equipment are inherently dangerous. Moving parts, malfunctions and improper training can quickly lead to equipment-related injuries. Luckily, these machines come with operating manuals that can provide essential information. Operating manuals should have safety information as well as instructions for proper upkeep and maintenance. These are essential resources for proper safety!

2. Inspection reports. These could include self-inspections or reports from government agencies like OSHA, insurance carriers, or third-party consultants.
Has your facility had safety inspections in the past? If so, those reports can pinpoint some of the trouble spots that have previously existed. Study those reports, but don’t stop there. Follow-up to make sure that any safety hazards in the reports were adequately resolved.

3. Safety Data Sheets (SDS) provided by chemical manufacturers.
Chemicals come with their own safety issues. Knowing the possible effects of different chemicals you use is critical. If you can’t find Safety Data Sheets for some chemicals you use, go online or contact your supplier to get them. Every employee that works with chemicals should know the hazards before handling them.

4. Logs and reports of previous illnesses and injuries as well as injury investigations.
Have there been incidents in the past? Probably. Looking at those reports can help you find patterns or trouble spots in your facility. Again, want to not only find the problems, but find out if they’ve been properly fixed.

5. Records and reports for workers’ compensation claims.
Same as above: workers’ comp claim reports can clue you into common or repetitive issues in your facility. This can also give you a little insight into the financial consequences of an unsafe workplace. If you’re looking for motivation to improve your safety culture, past worker compensation claims can do the trick!

6. Noticeable patterns of recurring injuries or illnesses
Even if they are not injuries or illnesses that cause significant loss of time or workers’ compensation claims, noticing these patterns can help you fix the situation before it leads to a bigger issue. Do accidents tend to happen at certain times, like shift changes or ends of shifts? Are there certain machines that are repeatedly causing issues? Find the patterns and then do what you need to do to stop them.

7. Existing safety programs, such as process safety management, PPE, and lockout/tagout.
Your facility may already have some safety programs in place. If so, great! Find out what you have going and evaluate them. Make sure there is someone in charge of each one and that no updates or new supplies are needed.

8. Existing employee surveys or notes from safety and health committee meetings.
Do you have a safety and health committee? If not, you should consider creating one. A team of employees who are dedicated to safety helps with thoroughness and accountability. If you already have a committee, what materials can they provide? Previous employee surveys or notes from past meetings can give insight into what has been done and what still needs improvement.

What Will You Find?

Finding the information you already have on hand is the first step to your workplace safety risk assessment. You may find a lot, or you may find that your facility is lacking the proper records. Gather what you can.

Examining this information closely can help you determine where you are in your safety program. Are there specific machines or areas that show up repeatedly in reports? Does your company keep Safety Data Sheets for any chemicals that are used? Do you have copies of previous OSHA safety inspections?

Once you know what information and records you have on hand, you can begin to analyze it as part of your overall safety risk assessment. This information lets you set the foundation for your new, improved workplace safety program.