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Dwayne Duncum

Health Care

Top Five Tips for Managing Workplace Hazards

Understanding and implementing effective controls of workplace hazards is every employer’s responsibility

Published: Thursday, September 15, 2022 - 11:03

The workplace has changed forever, having gone through a revolution similar to the Industrial Revolution. Our workplaces are diverse, complex, and frequently changing. If we take any lesson from the Covid pandemic, it’s that the way we work, where we work, and how we work have fundamentally shifted.

Likewise, we’re altering the way we manage workplace hazards. How we assess hazards, manage risks, and communicate about them and their control measures have changed. This revolution is enabled by technology, specifically mobile technology.

Why managing workplace hazards is important

Understanding workplace hazards and having effective controls for them is a basic right for all employees and the responsibility of every employer. Here are a few tips that have helped me manage workplace hazards. The goal is simple: Workplaces should be safe, healthy environments where human ingenuity and creativity can flourish.

Tip 1: Identify workplace hazards

Simplicity is the secret weapon when identifying workplace hazards. Documenting hazards is an ongoing activity, and incorporating hazard identification feedback loops into your daily activities is important.

Assessing how the workplace is changing based on business and environmental needs, in real time, is critical to the success of any hazard identification process. For example, prestarts or task reviews are great opportunities for regular, daily hazard identification.

One of America’s largest roofing companies conducts a daily task analysis (DTA) where every worker on every roof does a prestart check every day. This serves as an overview of the hazards they’ve identified. The company was able to attribute the volume of quality inspections with a decrease in incidents and injuries.

Tip 2: Understanding workplace risk

Understanding the risks of the identified hazards is critical, and context is everything. The most effective way to understand the risk within the context of your workplace is to discuss workplace hazards and unique daily challenges with the people doing the work.

I would argue that the layout of lines and lines of risks in a risk register is no longer suitable for our workplaces. Our expectations have changed. We expect the information to be instant and focused on task-specific risk content. Let’s move away from the lines upon lines of risks in a register.

So let’s look at creative, interactive ways to define and record our risks. This is where I believe mobile technology is an advantage—accessing, reviewing, and acting on workplace risks via a mobile device, such as the iAuditor platform.

Tip 3: Define workplace risk controls

Workplace risk controls should align with the hierarchy of control principles. Effective risk controls should be easily understood and communicated regularly to the team undertaking the work. Communicating all risk controls is critical to your team’s overall risk-management culture, and it’s key to collectively improving the entire organization.

The nature of the control must be considered to ensure that it can be implemented consistently across your business.

Every risk-management control has unique considerations. How will the control be perceived by the individuals doing the work? Is this control a hindrance to the working team? How will these teams access the needed risk-management control? What is the service or maintenance frequency of risk control?

For example: How will personal protective equipment (PPE) be accessed and managed by the teams, and what training will be needed? There are some great EdApp courses related to PPE, especially for those in construction and manufacturing.

Tip 4: Implement the controls and manage their effectiveness

Application is where your risk planning is tested. If you don’t apply the risk-management controls, the entire exercise is theoretical. Communication is also critical. You should have effective risk-control communication mechanisms in place.

Communicating the nature of the controls, as discussed in the previous section, is how you ensure that all working teams understand the need for risk-management control, and can access all relevant information.

Ensure that you have regular feedback loops to verify that risk-management controls have been implemented. These feedback loops should be built into the daily working activities as much as possible. If your feedback loops are simply inspection or auditing activities, you’ll miss key opportunities to manage your workplace risks proactively. Also be aware that workplaces are dynamic, and controls must be adaptable.

This is why regular risk-management communication is important. Effective communication flows both ways, from leader to worker and worker to leader. Make sure you have effective communication for the teams to call out and challenge the effectiveness of any risk-management control.
SC Feedback Loop
Safety culture feedback loop

Tip 5: Review of effectiveness

Once you have established an implementation feedback loop and are able to measure the effectiveness of the risk-management controls, you can make informed decisions about key business processes.

These feedback loops help connect the frontline team and company leaders. The level of visibility and trust increases between the two. Increased trust promotes efficiency and reduces loss. The resut is cost-saving, increased competitive advantage, and a safe workforce.

Technology is connecting our teams more effectively than ever before. Connected teams enable us to review the collective data and assess the effectiveness of our implemented controls. This wealth of knowledge and actionable insights allow us to manage workplace hazards proactively.

No longer are we waiting for accidents to happen before we learn and adapt. We can learn every day as the work is done.

The workplace is dynamic and constantly changing

Your hazard identification and risk-management systems must be agile and connected to those doing the work. Continual improvement isn’t a one-time event, but rather a part of daily work activities and implemented through an active feedback loop. With an effective workplace hazard-managing process, you can be a proactive business, actively reducing costs and increasing your competitive advantage while keeping your teams safe.

Discuss

About The Author

Dwayne Duncum’s picture

Dwayne Duncum

Dwayne Duncum is customer engagement executive of SafetyCulture. He has more than 20 years’ experience in senior safety, health, and environmental management roles within multinational organizations. He also has extensive experience in establishing group strategies and management systems, managing and mentoring HSE professionals, executive/board reporting, establishment and maintenance of robust auditing and assurance programs, leading cultural change programs, incident investigation, risk management, and contractor management, as well as coaching and training.