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Identifying health & safety hazards in IT network installation operations

The network installation sector has been a growing industry worldwide since the computer age began in earnest in the mid-1990s, and remains so to this day with the likelihood that you will be using some sort of network to read this article. As demand for computer usage in business and personal life continues to grow, so must the network installation sector adapt and grow to meet these challenges. Amongst these challenges are those of OH&S (occupational health and safety) as locations, circumstances, and degree of difficulties all become more complex to meet the expectations of network users’ needs. It therefore stands to reason that more network installation companies are turning to OHSAS 18001 to protect employee safety and well-being; so, given that identification and action against hazards is a critical part of OHSAS 18001, how would a network installation company go about identifying these hazards?

Hazards and how to identify them

In the previous article, How to classify O&HS hazards, we discovered how to classify and categorize hazards that exist in the workplace. The OHSAS 18001 standard defines a hazard as a “source, situation, or act with a potential for harm in terms of human injury or ill health, or a combination of these”; therefore, we can begin to imagine where to look to identify hazards that may be present during the activities of a network installation company. But, what type of area should we be looking in, and what specific considerations should we make to ensure that we can accurately identify hazards and ensure that our OH&SMS (Operational Health and Safety Management System) performance is acceptable? Let us look at some examples:

  • Working with power tools: It is not unusual that a network installation team must drill through walls and even modify buildings to install a network and cables. Does your team have the correct equipment? Is it calibrated and maintained, and does your team have the correct training and protective equipment to use it safely?
  • Knowledge of dangerous areas and substances in buildings: It is possible that your network team may be working in areas of danger within a building. Whether that is down to hazardous gases or substances that may be released if a drilling operation goes wrong, does your team have the knowledge and expertise to respond to that situation and mitigate the risk of accident by taking the correct action?
  • Correct product and electrical knowledge: Working with networks and electrical circuits has an inherent level of danger. Is your team properly qualified, trained, and instructed? Has the correct information been shared with the team, and any anomalies pointed out to allow the risk of an accident to be reduced?
  • Working at height: This is common for network installation teams. Does your team have the correct equipment and training, and have the risks been correctly quantified before the project has begun?
  • General health and safety training: Network installation sites are often buildings that are not fully complete, so the normal hazards of “slips and trips” will usually exist. Training your staff to recognize these situations can remove much of the danger that these hazards bring.

We now have some idea of how hazards present themselves in a situation where a network installation team may be called upon to operate, but let us look at what measures can be taken to prevent these identified hazards from becoming the cause of actual accidents:

  • Risk assessment: A critical part of the identification of hazards is risk assessment. Does your organization have a process whereby sites are assessed for risks to prevent hazards from becoming reasons for incidents or accidents? Risk assessment is at the core of any OHSAS 18001-certified OH&SMS, and it should be for any organization operating in the network installation sector. Effective risk assessment can play a central part in reducing hazards and lowering risk in most predicted workplace circumstances. The article How to perform risk assessment in OHSAS 18001 can assist you with this.
  • First aid training: Has your team had the necessary training to ensure that they can deal with an accident or emergency at what might be a remote site? Does your team carry a basic first aid kit to deal with such situations? Does your team have good methods of communication, such as mobile phones to allow them to communicate in a situation where hazards are present? First aid training can also help in a preventive sense – extra knowledge of how to treat accidents can help to formulate ideas on how to identify hazards and prevent accidents.

Ensuring safety in the network installation sector

If you establish an OHSAS 18001-certified OH&SMS in any business, the fundamentals and requirements will remain the same, and the network installation sector is no different. Ensure that you consult with your employees, use the knowledge that they have accumulated, make vital decisions jointly, and make sure that all decisions and policies are communicated effectively. Ensure that your top management team plays its part in setting examples and decision making, and you will help to build a culture where health and safety is viewed as vital. Combine all the above attributes and you will have an OH&SMS where identification of hazards is a prime motivator, and when this is the case, your employee safety and morale will benefit accordingly.

Why not use our free  ISO 45001 Gap Analysis Tool to measure the difference between the ISO 45001 standard and your health & safety management?

Advisera John Nolan
John Nolan
John Nolan is a Fellow of the Institute of Leaders and Managers in the United Kingdom, and Prince 2 accredited with a background in Engineering and Electronics and Data Storage and Transfer. Having studied and qualified as both a Mechanical and Electronic Engineer, he has spent the last 15 years designing and delivering Quality Systems and projects across many sectors in the UK, including both national and local government.