What are Workplace Hazards?
Workplace hazards and the management of them is the foundation of a health and safety system.
A hazard is anything that can injure or harm a person’s health.
If there were no hazards, there would be no need for a health and safety system at all.
Unfortunately, there are hazards everywhere in life, not just in the workplace.
In everyday life, we use mechanisms that are often unconscious to determine the risk of a hazard.
The difference between everyday life hazards and workplace hazards is that there are laws that govern the duties of business owners and managers where workplace hazards are concerned.
A few decades ago, these laws were not there to the extent they are today. Consequently, the landscape of business has changed to make health and safety and hazard management a business process that cannot be ignored or carried out half-heartedly.
The financial and stress-related costs are much too high.
Nowadays a business owner must be able to foresee hazards.
Unfortunately, foreseeing a workplace hazard can be a bit like crystal ball gazing since often they could not reasonably have been anticipated. However, this does not stop the need to try.
So, what is a hazard?
When you think about it the definition given by many health and safety “professionals” is misleading. For example, let’s say there’s a power cord running across a walkway on a building site. Is this a hazard?
Most health and safety pros would say that it is.
We are a little different in our definition.
We say the power cord across the walkway is not the hazard; tripping over the power cord is the hazard.
Likewise, we define risk a little differently than most. We believe determining the risk of the hazard occurring (someone tripping over the power cord) is a result of two factors;
- The likelihood of it happening (someone tripping over the power cord)
- The consequences if it does
Now, let’s say the walkway that the power cord is running across is a busy foot traffic area.
The public use the walkway and often women in high heels use it.
Let’s also say that the power cord is not secured in any way but is loosely laying across the walkway. Also, it’s prone to moving around as the operator of the power tool it’s attached to carries out work. Additionally, there are stacks of steel rods piled close to the walkway.
What Is The Risk?
Let’s use a risk matrix to determine the risk.