What It Takes to Perform an Effective Risk Assessment
Expert advice to master the process of keeping your plant safe, from identifying hazards to assigning risk levels, meeting documentation requirements, and eliminating or mitigating risks.
For purposes of this discussion, a risk assessment is a way to analyze a piece of equipment and processes based on tasks performed by personnel interfacing with the equipment. It includes reviewing areas of equipment usage and finding and identifying those hazards. Risk assessment is a process employed to recognize hazards, remove them, or reduce them to a tolerable level. They should be completed during each of the first three stages of equipment life:
Look for hazards in the design and mitigate them.
2. Build and run off
When the product begins to take shape and form, look for hazards that may not have been identified in design.
At this stage, again review for unseen hazards and mitigate. Once in production, the risk assessment results should be reviewed annually or when a change is made to the process, for the balance of the equipment life.
The first step is task analysis. Identify the tasks associated with the equipment; observe the equipment and how those who run it interface with it. The two ways every piece of manufacturing equipment operates are the way the designer designed it, through his or her understanding of the required needs of the client, and the way the production staff actually run it.
Production staff will find the fastest and easiest way to do the job required, learning every nook and cranny of the piece of equipment. (Sometimes this isn’t the safest way to operate the equipment.) Many times, unfortunately, knowledge stays “on shift.” Hence best practices aren’t always shared shift-to-shift. Operational variations ensue. This is a problem, one that could be very dangerous.
How to Do a Task Analysis
So it’s necessary to understand how to do a task analysis, and to list anything related to a particular station or standalone machine:
1. Observe how the machine works.
2. Understand the machine mechanically and electrically.
3. Observe how the people running the machine interface with it.
- Each person has his or her tasks for operating the machine.
- Find out those tasks through interviewing the operator or operators.
- If a staff runs a machine with many stations and they rotate tasks throughout the day (which is recommended), you may discover that personnel do the same task differently from one another.
4. Once you have an understanding of the machine and have documented all the tasks for each production person, you are ready to review the machine for hazards.
There are different methods to develop customized risk assessment tools or templates. The best way is to execute the risk assessment practice on a small piece of equipment to gain risk assessment process understanding. Using standards, you can use the templates provided in the standard used or develop your own customized template. Fertile areas for templates include gathering data, worksheets for tasks, and input/output matrices for tasks and hazards to weigh and rate the hazards and prioritize worse to least.
Compelling reasons exist to be aggressive in hazard identification. The authority having jurisdiction (AHJ) on this, OSHA, states in the “General Duty Clause” in Section 5 of the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 that this assessment needs to be done:
Section 5 Duties:
(a) Each employer…
(1) Shall furnish to each of his employees employment and a place of employment which are free from recognized hazards that are causing or are likely to cause death or serious physical harm to his employees;
(2) Shall comply with occupational safety and health standards and all rules, regulations, and orders issued pursuant to this Act.
(b) Each employee shall comply with occupational safety and health standards and all rules, regulations, and orders issued pursuant to this Act, which are applicable to his own actions and conduct.
Therefore, it simply makes sense for all concerned to have an aggressive, proactive effort to help avoid injuries. Looking for hazards on a routine basis helps everyone in regards to safety. Establishing a climate within the plant that facilitates the identification and removal of hazards is vital.
What is a hazard? A hazard places someone at risk or in harm’s way; it causes slight injury, serious injury, dismemberment, amputation, or death. At this point in the risk assessment, the assessor’s equipment experience is an extremely important attribute, because it facilitates identification and understanding of hazards.
When the assessor makes an inventory of the tasks being performed with a machine, he must list each task independently. If multiple hazards are identified with a single task, then the task must be listed with each hazard separately so each one is dealt with on its own merits. The fact is that people tend to group, combine, or see multi-task routines in a singular vision. The assessor must break them into single activities to make sure a hazard isn’t missed or left unattended, placing someone at risk. Additionally, the severity, frequency, and avoidance of the hazard must be addressed.
Using the list of tasks associated with the equipment, the assessor determines if the task places an individual at any risk. Mitigation action is required if it is not a “risk that is tolerable.” When a hazard or risk is discovered, there are two options: remove it completely or mitigate it to reduce the level of risk to a tolerable level.
Third parties may be engaged to help determine hazard severity, which is often done because the task is too time-consuming for internal personnel, internal personnel don’t have the knowledge to conduct a risk assessment, or simply there is no staff to do it. Internally or externally conducted, the risk assessment will use the latest standards (e.g., ANSI, ISO, EN) as guidelines. OSHA will cite the standards on review.
Frequency and avoidance of the hazard
Frequency boils down to how often an individual is exposed to the hazard. Sometimes this is easy to determine, sometimes not. Exposure can change based on how individuals interface with the equipment. Remember, shift-to-shift practices may not be shared, so personnel may be more or less exposed depending on when they work. Is this wrong? Quite possibly: standardized processes are generally better than variant ones. The important point for the assessor is to look at all shifts when conducting a review.
Avoidance comes down to whether the individual exposed to the hazard during the task can avoid the hazard. As with frequency, this may or may not be simple to identify for the same reasons cited in the frequency discussion.
Using these three areas, a level of risk can be established based on the cumulative result, and performance levels or safety integrity levels assigned, depending on the standards being referenced.
The Importance of Documentation
As knowledge is gained in the risk assessment process, documenting the process used for the assessment is as critical as the assessment itself. Every risk assessment should be documented and kept on file. Should an incident occur, the documented risk assessment will be a requested document. Having the document will be invaluable in determining the history of incidents that have occurred. Many believe risk assessments are a liability issue, thinking that if a recordable incident occurs, the owner (i.e., company) is liable. However, the risk assessment document can become a defense tool, proving that due diligence was done and showing how it was done.Have an Inquiry for Siemens about this article? Click Here >>