What is the purpose and structure of the health & safety hazard evaluation record?
Evaluation of hazards and the risks attached to these hazards is a central element of the OHSAS 18001 standard. In any effective OH&SMS (Operational Health and Safety Management System) you will find that this task is carried out diligently and effectively, with root causes identified, risk removed, and occurrence, reoccurrence, or both prevented. It therefore stands to reason that the document that exists to allow us to assess, gather, and record information around any hazard must be of high importance within the OH&SMS. This is where the hazard evaluation record comes into play in the OH&SMS, but given that we recognize its importance, what information should it seek to capture, and what form should this vital document take?
Hazard evaluation record – Why is it required?
The OHSAS 18001 standard requires an organization to create a process for the identification of hazard and risk, and maintain documentation to reflect this in an accurate and up-to-date manner. Given that OHSAS 18001 is designed to prevent accidents and enhance well-being in the workplace, it is easy to see why the hazard evaluation record is so important. When a hazard is identified, it is vital that it is recorded immediately so that action can be taken. It is also vital that a snapshot of any relevant and supporting details is captured, whether in information or pictorial form or both, so that no details are lost or assumptions need to be made when assessing risk and deciding on actions. So, given the importance of the accuracy of the hazard evaluation record, what aspects of form and content should we ensure are incorporated to enhance the chance of effectiveness?
What should the form and content be?
OHSAS 18001 does not prescribe what form any of your OH&SMS documentation should take, so as with any other documents in your system, you have some options when you construct this one. Several things will differ from one organization to another, but there are several elements that will universally need to be represented on a hazard evaluation record. Let’s examine what they may be:
- Date of hazard evaluation: This sounds obvious, but the issues that can affect a hazard situation can change from day to day, so recording the date is important. Also, from a monitoring and measuring viewpoint, recording the date of a hazard evaluation will allow you to assess how effective you are at taking action against perceived hazards, thereby measuring one vital element of your OH&SMS.
- Description of hazard: Again, obvious, but this will allow precise action to be taken that meets the terms of the risk assessed directly. For example, if the description is not sufficiently detailed and the person who records your hazard evaluation is absent, you may not have a true representation of the hazard and may end up with an action that falls short of what is required.
- Scoring system: It may be that you decide to quantify the hazard on the hazard evaluation record, similar to a risk assessment situation. Whether you decide on a “seriousness versus probability” scale, assess the potential number of people affected, or simply mark the hazard on a scale of 1 to 10, this quantifying of a hazard will allow you to prioritize and deal with the highest risk situations first.
- Action taken: Critically, you need a description of the action taken, with a subsequent quantification of whether this action has now removed the hazard, or put it within an acceptable scope.
- Responsibility and expected timelines: Again, obvious, but it is vital to ensure that the responsible person is highlighted so that there can be no doubt over who must take action on the identified hazard and when.
- Open/Closed: A section highlighting the status and when a hazard evaluation was closed will allow you to see the status of your hazard evaluation records on your OH&SMS at a glance.
How to make effective hazard evaluation records work for you
In the article How to identify and classify OH&S hazards we examined the identification and classification of hazards, and while it is vital to understand this, it is also clear that some of the effectiveness of your process will be lost if you do not record the resulting information clearly on a logical hazard evaluation record. Therefore, establishing a clear, concise, and effective hazard evaluation log can ensure that information is recorded accurately and in a timely fashion, and does not vary depending on who records it within your organization. This level of consistency can help ensure that your hazards are recorded accurately, and the risk can be removed or mitigated effectively.
Why not use our free OHSAS 18001 Gap Analysis Tool to measure the gap between your hazard evaluation management and the standard itself?