Hazards – Are you missing the obvious?

Workers Inspecting in hard hats and high-Vis vets for hazards

When it comes to identifying hazards and risks, it’s a good idea to work with an experienced group and include people both familiar with the work area, as well as ‘fresh eyes’ – those that aren’t familiar with the work. When we go through tasks regularly, it’s easy to be blind to the risks and hazards, as I will details below.
Recently during an OHS audit, I was watching people working very close to some large rotating equipment – they had to feed some material into these machines so that it was wrapped correctly.

When I asked if a risk assessment had been done they showed me a nicely formatted worksheet with columns and colours for such things as a hazard, consequence, likelihood, risk, controls, residual risk – all the usual things…and surprise! surprise! The residual risk was always low. I asked who was involved in the assessment and it was the operators, the team leader, and the maintenance manager.  I asked “Why these people?” the response was – “They are the people that know the process”. And this was the problem! I then got these people to stand back and look at the machinery and to imagine that they were in a different factory looking at someone else’s machine, and I simply asked them “does it look right?”. Instantly they all said “no” pointing out things like, no guarding, pinch points, loose clothing, and lack of lanyard stops. 

So the lesson in this – look at things through different people’s eyes – or better still have other people look for hazards with you. So you don’t miss the bleeding obvious! …and yes they did get a non-conformance.

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