Hazards may be categorised as:
- Mechanical: e.g. moving parts of machinery or moving vehicles.
- Physical: e.g. noise or vibration energy, radiation, or electricity.
- Biological: e.g. legionella bacteria or blood borne viruses.
- Chemical: e.g. corrosive or toxic cleaning chemicals.
- Environmental: e.g. cold or hot environments.
- Organisational: e.g. lack or resources, poor culture
The approaches to hazard identification will vary from workplace to workplace depending on the complexity of the business and the hazards present.
Whatever the context it is important that a consistent approach is determined to ensure that significant hazards are proactively identified.
The following tools and approaches can be useful in most workplaces:
- Workforce Involvement: Ask employees or their representatives for their opinion. The people directly involved in tasks and processes will be very aware of any serious concerns;
- Workplace Inspections: Look around to identify any obvious concerns;
- Information and Advice: The HSE website (www.hse.gov.uk) has readily available advice on common hazards and practical controls. Trade associations often produce helpful guidance and manufacturer’s instructions/data sheets can be very helpful in identifying specific hazards and controls;
- Historical Records: Accident and ill-health records can often help to identify the less obvious hazards, including hazards to health (e.g. from exposure to high levels of noise or harmful fumes).