Risk assessment template and examples for manufacturing
What is “risk assessment”?
All near misses or injuries occurring in manufacturing have the potential to be prevented. Take a minute to think: has there ever been a time where you witnessed a near miss or injury that could have been easily prevented if the area had been assessed beforehand and possible hazards had been taken into account?
It may seem a bit too obvious, but one of the best ways to reduce near misses or injuries is to prevent the unsafe situation from occurring in the first place. This is where risk assessments come in handy. Risk assessments are a tool that can be adapted to all manufacturing settings and provide a structured approach to identifying and controlling hazards before incidents occur.
Before jumping in to discuss why risk assessments are beneficial for manufacturing safety programs, the pieces of a risk assessment should first be defined. OSHA defines six action items here that can be used to help design a risk assessment.
To summarize, a risk assessment is a process of determining potential workplace safety and health hazards through collected information or workplace inspection, investigating incidents, and implementing controls for the hazards, prioritizing the most severe hazards first.
After controls are in place, the hazards can then be reevaluated to estimate whether additional controls would be beneficial. Keep in mind; there are many ways of controlling hazards.
What are the benefits of performing risk assessments in a manufacturing setting?
One benefit is that they prevent incidents, which is always a safety objective! However, there are other pros in performing risk assessments.
Risk assessments help to familiarize safety professionals with the manufacturing environment and processes, helping to shorten response time when incidents occur.
Risk assessments get workers involved in promoting safety. They help make workers aware of potential hazards around the workplace and become more comfortable with reporting potential risks.
Furthermore, performing risk assessments can reveal the dangers workers were not aware of or did not notice. When the workers are involved in the risk assessment process and are educated on the controls to protect themselves from the hazards, they are more likely to use the controls and participate in the safety program.
How can risk assessment be incorporated into an existing safety program?
Risk assessments can be performed on current manufacturing processes to establish a baseline. When new processes are implemented, risks can be reassessed, and the existing controls may need to be changed to accommodate the risk.
Here are some possible examples of when new risk assessments should be performed:
If there is a new piece of equipment arriving on the floor that workers will be required to use
If workers will be expected to start a new procedure that was not in use before
If there will be a new chemical being brought in for use in an existing process
It is important to note that risk assessment should not be thought of as a “one and done” procedure. Instead, risk assessments evolve and help keep track of past assessments and plan for future controls. An excellent way to do this is to use a risk assessment template or checklist, both of which can easily be created and customized for use in a specific manufacturing facility.
How can I create a risk assessment template for use in my program?
First, review any existing safety procedures already in place in the facility, along with any past incident reports. These can help give clues about what hazards are in the facility and how they are being controlled, which will help create a plan.
Next, think about which types of processes or tasks should be prioritized for assessment. For example,
- Does the facility have many stored chemicals that are frequently used?
- Are workers expected to lift heavy objects?
- Are there machines that need daily or unique maintenance work?
Every facility is different, but many if not all hazards can be spotted by taking the time to carefully look through an area and thinking about what could be made safer.
After identifying a task to be assessed, list the hazards associated with performing the task. Think about how dangerous the hazards could potentially be to a worker.
Could the hazards cause enough harm that there would be severe injury or long-lasting effects, or is it something that would only require basic first aid?
Note that if there is a facility history of incidents involving this particular hazard, it may be useful to record this for possible future training on the hazard. Rank the hazards listed on a scale of lowest to highest severity.
When the severity of the hazard has been assessed, determine the frequency workers are exposed to the hazard. For example, if the hazard is a task such as working on a machine with moving parts, how often will workers be expected to use the machine during a shift?
As another consideration, if the hazard is exposure to a chemical or loud noise, how often will workers encounter these types of hazards during the shift? Rank the hazards listed on a scale of lowest to highest frequency.
Next, ask workers about both the standard and non-routine tasks they are expected to perform. If a task is performed frequently, it may help prioritize it; however, if a non-routine task is highly hazardous, it may need to be first on the list.
Congratulations, your first initial risk assessment is complete! Now that the hazards have been listed and ranked, it is time to think about controls.
Implement controls as needed, starting with the most frequent or severe hazards. Once the controls are put in place, revisit the area to check if the controls are adequate or if more stringent measures are required.
For easy tracking, it helps to record risk assessments in safety software for manufacturing to refer back to and revise if new hazards are reported.
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