No job or workplace is entirely safe, and injuries, accidents, and even deaths can occur almost anywhere. There are, of course, workplaces where accidents are more common. Construction is one of them.
Even those who’ve never worked in construction can make relatively accurate assumptions about all the possible things that could go wrong here. This is why there are so many safety regulations that all construction workers have to follow, and why the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is so strict when it comes to enforcing workplace safety policies.
If you want to examine how safe your work environment is, you’ll have to perform a thorough risk assessment. So, let’s take a closer look at risk assessment in construction and see how it should be performed.
Brief Overview of Risk Assessment in Construction
In 2017, over 20% of workplace fatalities in private industries were in construction. While this number may be high and terrifying, there are ways to lower it, and one is through risk assessment.
A thorough risk assessment will offer insight into all of the health and safety risks to which the workers (and others) are exposed to at a construction site. And more importantly, it will offer the best safety precautions that should be followed to avoid such risks.
It’s essential to perform a risk assessment in construction not merely because it is a legal requirement, but because it will keep you and your workers safe.
There are three crucial parts of a risk assessment. When performing one, you should:
- Identify all workplace hazards
- Determine the likelihood and severity of injuries
- Come up with appropriate control measures that will reduce the risks
With this in mind, let’s see how a risk assessment should be performed.
Steps to Take to Perform a Risk Assessment
You are required by law to perform a risk assessment if you have over five employees, but it’s desirable to do so even if you have fewer. Almost half of all deaths on construction sites occur in companies with fewer than ten employees, so you can see how crucial it is to do all in your power to protect yourself and your employees.
Any competent individual can do a risk assessment. If you have adequate training, knowledge, and experience, you can do your risk assessment. However, even if you hire a professional, you will still be responsible for any mistakes in the report, so always pay very close attention to what is happening during the assessment.
You’ll need to be familiar with how the process goes. So, here are the five crucial steps of risk assessment in construction:
- Identify all workplace hazards
Some of the most common workplace hazards can include physical hazards, mental, biological, chemical. It’s essential to take note of them all. It’s best to examine all processes and activities that could potentially be hazardous to your employees.
Some hazards are easily missed if you’ve gotten used to them, so it’s a good idea to take note of your history of accidents and illnesses in the workplace and pay attention to the operations that are outside your routine.
- Determine who can be harmed and in what way
You will need to take all of your people into consideration. Full-time and part-time workers, visitors, clients, contractual workers, night shift staff, etc. Knowing who can be harmed will help you come up with better preventative measures.
- Evaluate the safety risks and come up with control measures
By now, you should be aware of the possible risks and who is likely to suffer from them. Of course, if you can remove the risk entirely — do so. However, in most cases, it isn’t possible to eliminate the risks, and you can only decide on the control measures. Assess the control measures already in place and see if they can be improved.
- Make a record of your findings
Your report should include all the hazards, how they can potentially harm you and your employees, and which control measures you’ve put in place. This can be of great help if there is a workplace accident, as you’ll know what you can expect, and you’ll be prepared to handle it appropriately.
- Review your risk assessment
It’s always important to review your risk assessment to see if you’ve missed something. Once the control measures have been implemented, you should assess whether any new hazards have come up and whether everything is in good order.
What Is a Risk Matrix and How Should You Use It?
When performing a risk assessment, you should use a risk matrix. The risk matrix will help you measure the level of risk by considering the likelihood of injury against the severity of consequences.
When considering the likelihood of injury, you can divide it into four broad categories:
- Likely (when a worker is continuously exposed to the hazard)
- Possible (when a worker is occasionally exposed to the hazard)
- Unlikely (when a worker is seldom exposed to the hazard)
- Rare (when a worker is almost never exposed to the hazard)
The severity of consequences can also be divided into four categories:
- Catastrophic (the hazard can result in multiple deaths)
- Critical (the hazard can result in serious injury that requires immediate medical attention)
- Marginal (the hazard can result in reversible health damage)
- Negligible (the hazard can result in a minor injury that requires no medical care)
By using a risk matrix, you’ll be able to visualize all the workplace risks and their consequences. This will allow you to come up with the best possible control measures that can be implemented in your workplace.
Implementing Control Measures
Reducing the risks is a difficult task, but it can be made easier if you have a control measure hierarchy.
Hazard control can be accomplished through the following steps:
- Elimination of all serious hazards
- Substitution of hazards with something safer
- Isolation of hazard from people
- Implementation of administrative controls to develop safer work practices
- Use of personal protective equipment
The Bottom Line
While it may seem like a tedious exercise, risk control is a necessity. It will create a safer working environment for you and your employees, which can have a significant impact on your overall productivity, efficiency, and employee satisfaction.