Monday, September 23, 2013

Fall Hazard Risk Assessment & Ranking

On Wednesday, Sept. 18, LJB Inc. presented Understanding Risk Assessment & Ranking, a webinar on how best to identify fall hazards and prioritize preventive actions. Speaker Thom Kramer, P.E., CSP, the managing principal at LJB Inc. and chair of ASSE’s PDC Planning Committee, explained that to abate fall hazards, safety professionals need to both evaluate their current methods of risk assessment and identify the top ten risks found in their facilities.

According to Kramer, many fall hazards go undetected because workers may believe that a lack of incidents indicates that no risks are present. He warns that some safety initiatives, such as use of PPE and safer equipment, may lead workers to take more risks because they perceive their workplace as being safer than it really is.

To effectively assess risks, safety professionals must seek to identify all risks rather than focusing on a few categories of risk. For example, while hazards associated with edge distance and slippery conditions are most often taken into consideration, some personnel may overlook more unusual hazards, such as a loose bolt holding a ladder in place on a structure.

Once all hazards have been identified, lists of those hazards must be kept for use in prioritizing concerns and alerting workers to risks they may encounter. Kramer says that just like a grocery list, a list of hazards is necessary for remembering what the hazards are, where they are located and how quickly they need to be mitigated. He suggests using a risk matrix (see below) to help determine which hazards require immediate attention. Such a matrix measures the severity of the potential incident against the probability that workers will be exposed to the hazard and can be used for assigning a numerical ranking to every hazard. For example, a hazard that workers have probable exposure to that would result in a total temporary disability (TTD) would receive a ranking of 2, meaning that it requires immediate attention but is not as urgent as a hazard that receives a ranking of 1.

Simple risk matrixes have some limitations in their accuracy, so it is important to also calculate the maximum risk reduction possible in respect to the hazards identified and funds available for risk reduction strategies. Kramer stresses the need to identify all risks before mitigating according to a budget because companies run the risk of spending all their available funds on the first risk they find, which may not be the most critical hazard to address.

For more information on fall protection webinars and recordings of earlier presentations, visit LJB’s website