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Once hazards have been identified, they’ll need to be prioritized for action. To do this, you need to determine how dangerous they are. This allows you to make decisions as to what hazards need to be addressed first, and to set priorities for introducing controls.
A risk is the likelihood of a hazard actually causing harm. To determine the level of risk, you need to consider what can happen if someone is exposed to a hazard and the likelihood of it happening. As you identified each hazard in your workplace, you likely made a judgement of the risk on the spot.
Automatically you would have used the risk assessment process we describe here:
What can happen?
Think about the severity of consequences of exposure to each hazard you have identified in terms of:
How to rank severity of consequences
How likely is it?
Judging how likely it is that something will happen is like predicting the future. You cannot be sure, but you can try to estimate the frequency (likelihood) of a hazard causing harm by considering the following:
How to rank frequency (likelihood)
What’s the level of risk?
Now that you’ve thought about potential consequences and likelihood of harm, you can use a Risk Assessment Table to determine if a hazard is a high, medium or low risk. This will allow you to prioritize hazards for corrective action.
Keep in mind that if a hazard is obvious and the risk of injury is high, you must act to control that risk immediately. In the short term, that could mean that nobody performs the job or task until the high risk hazard has been eliminated or reduced to a controllable medium or low risk.
Risk Assessment Table
A Risk Assessment Table is used to translate assessments of consequence and likelihood into levels of risk (i.e., low risk, medium risk or high risk). The Risk Assessment Table presented here is a simple one, where the numerical values of the severity of consequence and frequency (likelihood) are added together, with the sum total representing the level of risk.
1. Determine the potential consequences, or severity of harm:
2. Determine the frequency (likelihood) or chance of harm or injury from each event:
3. Determine the level of risk by plotting the severity of consequences and frequency (likelihood) on this table:
SAFE Work Manitoba, a division of the WCB, is the public agency dedicated to the prevention of workplace injury and illness.
Working with our partners in the safety community, we provide prevention education, safety programming, consulting and strategic direction to create a genuine culture of safety for all Manitobans.