When assessing hazards of the task, one must ask two important questions, how bad could this be and how “likely” is this to happen? How bad it can be is the severity of harm or injury that can be caused by the hazard. The likelihood or “probability” is more difficult to determine.
“Probability” – The likelihood that an event could occur in a given period of time.
When assessing the risk of a hazard, first determine the severity of the outcome. The result could be catastrophic, critical, moderate or minor depending on the nature of the hazard. Determining the probability of the result is the next step.
- Frequent: Likely to occur repeatedly in few years
- Probable: Likely to occur several times in few years
- Occasional: Likely to occur sometime in few years
- Remote: Not likely to occur in few years, but possible
- Improbable: Probability of occurrence cannot be distinguished from zero.
Reducing the initial risk is done by adding controls or precautions and depends on the types of precautions used. Only certain control measures determine whether or not the likelihood cannot be distinguished from zero. An example would be the removal of the hazard completely or isolating the hazard from the employee.
NOTE: Using 100% tie off as a precaution against falling does not make the fall improbable, but it does reduce the severity. More precautions would be required to reduce the likelihood. Slips, trips and falls are not improbable because they are frequent just as small cuts and abrasions.
When deciding on probability, consider the following:
- How many people are exposed to that hazard over few years?
- How long are you exposed to it and how many times?
- Do the control measures physically limit your exposure to the hazard?
Remember that it’s important to get the hazard into the green, but the control measures must be enough to reduce the likelihood of the hazard causing harm or damage. Don’t forget you have the right to refuse unsafe work.
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