Because of the rigorous nature of the work and the heavy machinery involved, factories and manufacturing plants can often be dangerous working environments. Therefore, risk assessments - commonly known as the foundation of making a machine safer - are necessary to curb potential hazards. A risk assessment is a logical, step by step breakdown of a machines’ processes, separating all the individual hazards so as to be able to focus on one at a time. As the industry continues to grow and more machines enter the work environment, risk assessments are critical to quell potential hazards and keep workers safe.
Risk Assessment - The Process
Certain steps must be taken in order to fully assess the safety of a machine. These steps include:
- Identifying machine tasks and the possible hazards associated with them in the workplace.
- Assessing the probability and severity of potential harm.
- Minimizing the risk of harm through the elimination of the hazard or through the use of safeguarding techniques.
- Documenting the process and the associated data.
While the completion of a risk assessment cannot ever guarantee safety with a 100% certainty, it certainly helps to mitigate and prevent future potential hazards from occurring.
While risk assessments are critical toward maintaining a safe working environment and a myriad of organizations (OSHA, IEC, ISO) outline standards for conducting risk assessments, the responsibility of conducting a risk assessment falls to both the machine supplier and user. A competent third-party consultant can be hired to conduct a risk assessment. However, the eventual onus for personnel safety lies with the employer.
When Should We Conduct a Risk Assessment?
A risk assessment should be carried out whenever changes are made - whether significant or seemingly insignificant. The introduction of new machinery or systems and/or the implementation of new tasks and routines necessitates a risk assessment be conducted to ensure safety. When adding new processes, it is important to evaluate if any tasks could possibly result in a hazardous event.
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