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Risk assessment clarity in the workplace • Mike Doherty

December 12, 2016 | By Mike Doherty

December 12, 2016 – In my last column, I addressed the basic theory and concepts behind CSA’s family of occupational health & safety (OH&S) standards. Among them is CSA Z1000 “Occupational health & safety management”, CSA Z463 “Guideline on maintenance of electrical systems”, CSA Z460 “Control of hazardous energy: lockout and other methods” and, of course, CSA Z462 “Workplace electrical safety”.

If I had to pick just one concept that I wanted everyone—be they front-line managers, supervisors or workers—to understand with great clarity, and that business units would implement flawlessly for every electrical task, it would be the Risk Assessment Procedure from Z462.

Too often, clarity is not provided from senior management or executive teams, which can certainly be the root cause of safety dysfunction in any business unit.

(While there are endless resources on this subject, I strongly recommend Patrick Lencioni’s “The advantage: why organizational health trumps everything else in business,” which describes the importance of workplace clarity very well.)

The beauty of the Risk Assessment Procedure is it provides great clarity to those doing electrical work (though it works just as well for any hazard in any workplace). The three steps below lay out an incredibly effective yet relatively simple process that—regardless of task—every worker can follow to create a quality job plan:

1.        Identify hazards
2.        Assess risks
3.        Implement risk control (according to a hierarchy of methods)

Discussions over the last number of decades describe similar procedures for safer work practices, but the sheer multitude of concepts, definitions and procedures (e.g. hazard analysis, job safety analysis) have often led to significant confusion and, sometimes, a lack of credibility for those tasked with safe work planning at the field level.

A lot of these concepts are great, but they lack a consistent thought process for risk management. Add to that our growing mobile workforces (of which electrical contractors are a great example), and the capacity for misunderstanding grows.

How many times have you heard a worker say, “Just tell me what you want me to do.”?

Workers, supervisors and all levels of manager and owner need to believe they are executing safe work in a timely and efficient manner. There is just no other acceptable way. So the challenge, then, is to ensure everyone involved in job planning and task execution clearly understand and use Z462’s Risk Assessment Procedure.

Ask your field supervisors and workers about the first steps behind their job plans, especially the safety portion. What do they do first and foremost? Do they have the knowledge, competence and clarity to carry out the three steps of a quality Risk Assessment Procedure?

When you visit the field and ask your team about the three steps, and if they have no idea what you’re talking about, then you need to ask yourself whether clarity has been provided from the top.
But, when you visit the field and ask your workers about the three steps, and they understand what it all means and the rigour required for safe work, you can be assured you’re well on your way down the road of safety excellence.

When a managed OH&S system provides clarity, it’s amazing just how efficient your safe work planning can become. In truth, it becomes a measurement of your organizational health in numerous areas. Workers can and will implement outstanding safe work practices in the field when clarity is provided from the top.

On a final note, there’s no better place than the 2017 IEEE Electrical Safety Workshop (January 31 to February 3, Reno, Nev.) for connecting with experts whose mission is to make safe electrical work practices the norm. To learn more, visit EBMag.com/events and watch EBMag’s video “The Most-Efficient Electrical Safety Education… Anywhere!” at tinyurl.com/lr8q7wp.  

A subject-matter expert on electrical safety, Mike Doherty is an independent electrical safety consultant and trainer for eHazard in Canada and the president and owner of Blue Arc Electrical Safety Technologies Inc. He is a licensed electrician and an IEEE senior member, and has served as the Technical Committee chair for CSA Z462 since its inception in 2006. His specialties include electrical safety management, consulting, training, auditing and electrical incident investigations. Mike can be reached at mike.doherty@e-hazard.com.

* This article also appears in the December 2016 edition of Electrical Business Magazine. Check out our ARCHIVE page for back issues.

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