What is Involved in a Risk Assessment?

People conduct risk assessments every day, whether they are conscious of it or not.  In your personal life, you make decisions on whether or not to drive during a rainstorm, go to a large gathering during the COVID-19 pandemic, or even overeat at Thanksgiving dinner.  At the workplace level, formal risk assessments should also be conducted regularly.  These risk assessments don’t need to be complicated.  They just need to meet the level of risk involved with the task at hand.  What is involved in a risk assessment?  I explain the basics here.

What is Involved in a Risk Assessment?  Hazard Identification:

Risk assessments should be conducted before any work begins.  This is how hazards are identified and assessed.  This can be accomplished with a simple job safety analysis (JSA) or a full hazard identification meeting, depending on the risk involved.  These are both ways to collect information and review it with everyone involved.  The key here is that employees should be actively involved with the whole process.

What is Involved in a Risk Assessment?  Hazard Classification and Rank:

Once the hazards have been identified, they need to be classified and ranked according to the risk.  To determine the risk, the probability of the hazard causing harm must be considered, along with how often the hazard is encountered and the severity of the consequences of the hazard.  Using a risk matrix will aid in prioritizing the hazards to address those most severe first.

What is Involved in a Risk Assessment?  Hierarchy of Controls:

The hierarchy of controls is a great tool that can be used to mitigate hazards.  When a hazard is identified, the first realistic option is to eliminate that hazard altogether.  If that isn’t possible, engineering controls should be used.  If engineering controls don’t reduce the risk, administrative controls should be used.  At the bottom of the hierarchy is personal protective equipment (PPE).  If the hazard cannot be initially eliminated, then a combination of engineering controls, administrative controls, and PPE is usually best.

What is Involved in a Risk Assessment?  Risk Evaluation:

Once the hazards have been identified, an estimation of the likelihood that a hazardous event will occur, along with the severity, must be calculated.  The likelihood can range from improbable to frequent, and the severity from negligible to catastrophic.  This information can then be used in a risk matrix to determine the level of risk.  Considering the control measures in place, you can then determine the final level of risk and whether or not to move forward with the activity.

Again, depending on the job, the risk assessment does not have to be complicated.  The ultimate goal is to reduce the risk and allow everyone involved to go home healthy and safe at the end of the day.

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