Risk of injury is an inherent part of most construction and a lot of heavy industry projects. We can’t eliminate risk entirely but we can reduce the risk and control it using standard procedures and good work practices. Or, we can just accept the risk as a normal part of doing a job. The question becomes “How much risk are you and your employees willing to accept?”
Risk is with us every day and on every task. Risk is determined by frequency (how often we’re exposed to it), probability of something bad happening, and the severity of the outcome. We make decisions about accepting risk every day. Another real question is “Do we understand the risk and are we willing to accept it?”.
Acceptance of risk begins at the organizational level and is forced down stream to the local level. Controlling risk is typically a management function and fortunately, there are some good tools available to help understand risk and keep it at an acceptable level. One tool commonly used today is the Job Safety Analysis.
At the lowest management level, risk has to be controlled by the people doing the work and their immediate supervisors. In both the planning and execution of a task, it is essential to make sure that all those who need to be involved are given an adequate opportunity to be involved and are kept informed of developments that might increase the risks and change the measures needed to deal with them.
Evaluating Work Site Hazards
Workers really are very good at spotting hazards, but not as good at mentioning them. Most incident investigations (my opinion) have found that workers in the area knew the hazard existed. Some thought the hazard was normal and some say they just thought the risk was “acceptable”. How do we, as managers, get our employees involved and help reduce risk?
The goal is to establish a common level of risk tolerance among the team members and there are several things that can affect this process. On any job, the judgment and decisions of the supervisory staff and employees are the most critical part of work area risk assessment and communication of local hazards. A good understanding of the nature of the work, the work environment and the health and safety hazards involved is required of the individuals making decisions on the best way to control the hazards.
The fact that each person’s perception of risk and level of risk tolerance is different is one of the things that complicates communication of risk on a construction site. The JSA is a tool used to improve and document the communication process and ensure mutual understanding of risks and controls by all the people involved.
Managing The Risk
A Job Safety Analysis is an important part of the risk management process in heavy industry. As part of the risk management process, the JSA is a management tool used to reduce the level of risk to the lowest possible acceptable level by allowing all members of a team to interact and develop a common understanding of the task, procedures and hazards associated with completing the task. The tool is available, using it for the greatest benefit is another matter.
The good, bad or indifferent perception of the JSA as planning tool by the person completing it has a significant effect on the quality of information on the document and the level of input by workers involved.
How much individuals are trusted and internal power relations can significantly influence the willingness of employees to communicate and control risk. Other personal factors that can influence communication include individual experience, risk assessment and individual perception of a particular risk with respect to other people on the team or in the area.
Other factors that may influence local risk management include the physical environment of the work area, work procedures (safe work practices), tools and resources available to eliminate or reduce the hazard.