Hazard Reporting: Tips and Setup

Hazardous situations are all around us, whether at home, at work or even in public places. It is nearly impossible to safeguard yourself from potential hazards completely, the most you can do is try to minimize the dangers. It is everyone's responsibility to report any situation or activity that we think can cause harm.
A hazard in a workplace is any work practice or procedure that poses potential harm in the safety or health of an employee or any other person around the workplace. An employer should be responsible for identifying and adapting ways to eliminate or reduce any hazardous situations to ensure the safety of their employees.
Hazards in a workplace can result from lack of employee training or coaching, lack of equipment repair and maintenance, use of defective materials, inefficient work processes and procedures, etc.
Hazard reporting, on the other hand, is the process where an employee reports a hazard or a potentially harmful situation. Hazard reporting can either be done orally to the supervisor, in a departmental meeting or by filling in a hazard report form.

There are six types of hazards in the workplace, namely;
1. Safety hazards: eg. Machine malfunction, lack of PPE, or tripping hazards.
2. Chemical hazards: exposure to fumes or toxic materials that pose a danger to the user.
3. Ergonomic hazards: resulting from an ineffective workstation setup.
4. Biological hazards: includes harm caused by bacteria, viruses, animals, etc.
5. Psychological hazards: resulting from stress or violence in the workplace.
6. Physical hazards: Exposure to radiation, extreme pressure or noise, etc.

Importance of Reporting Hazards in the Workplace

-To minimize injuries.
-To enable the employer to mitigate the hazards effectively to prevent recurrence.
-To enable employees to work in a safe environment; hence ensuring high productivity.

What to Include in the Hazard Report Form


A hazard report form is a document meant to follow up on hazards that occur in the workplace to ensure that action is taken and also to keep a record for future reference. The following are the five key things to include in a hazard reporting form;

1. Personal details of the person filing the hazard report: the person's name, phone number, department details and manager to whom they report, is vital for follow-up purposes. In case there is more clarification required.
2. Description of hazard: Indicating a well-detailed summary and location of the danger is essential for easy assessment and faster resolution of the matter. Some hazard report forms require the time and date of hazard identification. The person filing the report might also be required to indicate reason they think the situation is hazardous and how it could be mitigated.
3. Root cause analysis (RCA): It is the process of identifying underlying problems or faults in processes or procedures. A useful RCA pinpoints the actual cause of the problem making it easy for the employer or management to iron out the deficiency in the system.
4. Risk assessment: different hazards vary in magnitude of risk. Having a risk rating will be helpful to gauge the severity of the situation. Some hazards can cause minor injuries while others can cause death or permanent disabilities. Hazard reporting is not just for cases that have already happened but also "near misses" that have a likelihood or potential to cause harm to people. Risk assessment involves three main processes namely; hazard identification, risk evaluation and analysis, and risk control.
5. Action plan to correct the hazard: These are the steps taken to eliminate or control the activity to reduce the risk. It ensures that the danger does not pose a threat to someone else in the future. There are five ways of controlling hazards, namely;
-Elimination: entirely doing away with an activity or situation; especially applicable for the high-risk hazards.
-Substitution: taking an alternative if available. If for example, a machine or specific equipment poses a danger to the user, the option is to replace it with less hazardous versions that are capable of performing the same roles.
-Engineering control: Applies to the use of machinery or chemicals in the workplace. Anything harmful should either be eliminated or substituted to protect employees from any form of harm.
-Work practice controls: Also known as administrative control. These include making changes in work procedures. Having written and well-displayed safety policies, supervision or frequent training sessions would significantly mitigate work-related hazards.
-Use of PPE (Personal Protective Equipment): introducing protective gear for body protection, these include; helmets, safety boots, protective glasses, earplugs, protective clothes, etc.

Tips on how to reduce hazards in a workplace


-Carry out regular risk assessments: the frequency depends on the size of the workplace and risk level of the activities involved. Large workplaces or those with high-risk level activities require frequent assessments as the likelihood of hazard occurrence is high.
-Appoint safety representatives to carry out inspections: This is mostly practicable for large workplaces. Having safety reps will ensure faster identification of hazardous situations or activities and hence speedier resolution.
-Regular servicing of machines and equipment: It ensures that the machinery is functioning well and does not pose any danger to the user.
-Encourage speak up policy: it is crucial for employees to be able to communicate freely. These are the people that directly interact with equipment, processes, and procedures, in case of a malfunction, they are likely to detect it early hence preventing a potentially dangerous situation.

Carrying out regular risk assessments in the workplace is essential to ensure the safety of employees and visitors. It is the employer's responsibility to carry out the risk assessment and deal with the findings to ensure the safety of the workplace. Employees are also responsible for their safety, thus are urged to report any situations that might pose a potential danger to people.
The hazard reporting form is fundamental in ensuring hazards are taken care of promptly to prevent recurrence of harm.

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