Every 7 seconds, a U.S. worker is injured on the job. That translates into over 4.6 million injuries every year. In 2017, these injuries resulted in over 106 million lost workdays and a lot of needless pain and suffering for workers.
Many of these injuries are both predictable and preventable. Preventing injury is exactly what a workplace hazard control plan is designed to do. It is a carefully crafted plan for identifying and controlling the hazards in your workplace. If you don’t already have one in place, you should. Here is what you should consider when crafting your workplace hazard control plan.
Drafting a scope for your hazard control plan can be a time-consuming but worthwhile process. Your scope should cover all parts of the plan, including whether it will protect your entire workplace or specific departments or sections. It should also clearly identify the process or processes you will be working with. For example, will there be a single process in place for the entire site, or will you have separate processes for different areas?
Your scope should identify whether your approach will be project, procedure, system or hazard-based. For example, will you organize your plan around specific hazards or around the systems or tasks which may expose workers to particular risks? You should also establish a timeline for each aspect of the plan from consultation to implementation.
Consult Your Workforce
Every workplace is different, so no two hazard control plans will be identical. However, they should all involve a formal discussion with individual segments of your workforce. These consultations should occur at multiple points in the creation process. Leverage your people early in the process to help you identify possible workplace hazards. Your workers on the ground actually interacting with machinery will have a different vantage point, for example, than the supervisors whose primary role is to observe. Both, however, are equally useful in identifying hazards.
Both workers on the ground and management can also be useful in identifying possible hazard controls and later, when you assign roles and responsibilities for implementation. Communication should not cease once the plan is created. There should also be a mechanism for reporting and dealing with any new potential workplace hazards embedded in your plan.
This ongoing consultation process ensures a comprehensive hazard control plan, but also gets you buy-in from all levels of staff and helps ensure a successful implementation.
Through the consultation process or independent workplace risk assessment, identify all potential hazards that require controls. In your plan, list these in order of priority. In most cases, this means dealing with the most severe issues first, although in some cases, it may make sense to tackle more easily controlled hazards first and get them handled quickly.
Performing a risk assessment of each hazard can help you prioritize by evaluating which threats present the highest or most immediate risk to your workers or the public.
Your plan should also attempt to identify both hazards and controls for non-routine operations and possible emergencies. What will you do, for example, in the event of a power outage, natural disaster or disease outbreak?
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) recommends that selected controls be “feasible, effective and permanent.” This is good advice. The last thing you want is to be continually tweaking your control plan because controls are either ineffective or wear out. However, you may have to implement short-term controls to eliminate direct threats, while more long-term controls are identified and put in place.
Utilize the hierarchy of controls established by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) to select the most effective control for each hazard.
In order of decreasing effectiveness, these controls are:
- Elimination or physically removing the hazard
- Substitution or replacing the hazard
- Engineering controls that isolate people from the hazard
- Administrative controls designed to change the way people work
- Personal protective equipment worn by the worker for protection against the hazard
Roles and Responsibilities
In addition to a timeline for implementation, your hazard control plan should make it clear who is responsible for each control. Assign these tasks to specific individuals or groups of individuals to assure accountability. Give responsibility for implementation to workers, supervisors or managers as long as they also have:
- The full support of your administration
- Thorough knowledge of the plan and safety protocols and regulations
- Access to the areas where the hazard exists
- Authority to allocate resources and implement controls
Your hazard control plan should undergo a regular formal review at least annually. It is also a good idea to conduct a review anytime there is a significant safety incident. Review your list of hazards to ensure it is accurate and review the controls you have put in place to ensure they are effective. Identify specific areas of concern and establish a plan to evaluate and reassess each area. This is also the time to assign someone the task of ensuring that the controls in place are the best possible options. This same individual can also identify any recent innovations which may work better for your company.
Your review should include information gathered from your latest inspections and confirm that all workplace safety policies are being adhered to by supervisors and staff. It may also include an assessment of training needs and the current roles and responsibilities designated under the plan.
Your workplace hazard control plan should be considered a living rather than a static document. It will change as new hazards are introduced into your workplace and older ones eliminated. New technologies will also allow you to implement solutions that are higher on the control hierarchy and much more effective in removing or mitigating risks.
Keep Your Workplace As Safe As Possible
No workplace can be entirely risk-free. However, a strong workplace hazard control plan can provide you with a level of control and confidence you are doing everything you can to keep your workers safe.