Risk Assessment Matrix to Proactively Improve Workplace Safety Efforts
Blog | June 9th, 2022

Risk Assessment Matrix to Proactively Improve Workplace Safety Efforts

In the workplace, several risk factors can affect the health and safety (H&S) of the employees and the environment. For instance, in the life sciences sector, safety risks can come from any of the following issues.

The risk management process broadly encompasses:

  • Usage of flammable and combustible materials
  • Presence of hazardous chemicals in the lab
  • Biological hazards, risks of unknown biomaterials
  • Musculoskeletal strains due to poor ergonomics, repetitive movements, and/or awkward working positions
  • Other lab safety hazards (sharp glass, etc.)

In industries like oil & gas, construction, and manufacturing, there are other types of risks from poorly maintained equipment, trips and falls, hazards from conducting electrical work or hot work, etc. This list of possible safety hazards could go on and on.

Dealing with each risk to put in appropriate controls and mitigate their impact may sound like a reasonable thing to do, but in reality, “solving for everything” can be time-consuming and ineffective.

By the time a few risks are identified and managed, a few others may blow up and become full-fledged safety events. Some of the low-impact risks may be mitigated, making no significant difference to overall health and safety, while the more serious ones may get overlooked and have a massive negative impact.

Businesses need to not only identify safety risks but also need to be able to assess the severity and likelihood of each risk. The need of the hour is a risk-aware EHS Management system that can deliver predictive intelligence, so H&S leaders can prioritize and control the ones with high impact and a higher likelihood of occurrence.

To be able to prioritize the next steps, H&S leaders need a Risk Assessment Matrix to be able to plot the risks based on the two factors – severity and likelihood.

The risk matrix provides safety leaders with

  • A visual representation of the risks
  • Prioritize risks that need to be addressed first
  • Present risk control measures within the matrix

Key Benefits of Semi-Automated Risk Assessment

Health and Safety Management is regulated across industries to ensure that the workplace is safe for the employees and the environment. Often, businesses deprioritize safety, implementing the bare minimum to remain compliant because they believe safety processes can reduce the agility and pace of operations.

In fact, it is actually the opposite: a not very safe workplace can prove very expensive. It can lead to injury, damage to property and equipment, leading to productivity losses, absenteeism, and disrupting operations for several days. In case of severe injuries or death, the company may face litigation and pay penalties in addition to paying out compensation.

An unsafe working environment also can lead to employee dissatisfaction, high churn, and higher recruitment and training costs. In fact, due to the company not giving safety importance, employees may also indulge in unsafe behavior, further endangering the workplace and their health and safety.

A business that pays attention to safety practices must conduct periodic risk assessments, proactively implement controls, and do whatever it takes to build a safety culture across departments. This is possible only when there is total employee involvement and a mindset to follow a safety-aware approach to all processes.

The risk assessment matrix plays a key role in the improvement of the safety culture.

Using a solution like ComplianceQuest EHS, it is possible to automate and make quick decisions to:

  • Improve process efficiency, risk management, and internal controls by identifying risk trends across the enterprise
  • With all risk data in one place, it is easy to analyze and prioritize
  • From within CQ EHS, it is possible to collaborate with relevant stakeholders to plan the next steps
  • CQ.AI makes it easier by automatically estimating the level of risk and likelihood of a hazard occurring
  • Our solution empowers employees to record observations to a centralized risk register to drive strategic decisions on potential threats with a solution
  • It is also easy to align with the risk principles in ISO 45001 and ISO 14001

Conducting the Risk Assessment

To create the risk assessment matrix, there is a six-step process. This includes:

#1 Identifying the Key Hazards: This requires going back through the records to determine the injuries and illnesses reported in the past. Walking through the workplace and observing the potential dangers to environmental and employee health and safety is another way to expand the list of risks. Read through the safety guidelines for the plant and different equipment to identify what can go wrong there. Non-routine activities are another source of danger. Also, refer to industry-related risks and add them to the list.

#2 Assess the Severity of the Risk: Some risks may have a greater impact than others. Evaluating the severity is a very important step as this will be one of the factors determining which risks need to be prioritized. At this point, the company may also want to establish thresholds for its risk appetite. If the hazard is unlikely to disrupt operations or cause injury or damage, the company may decide to make it a low priority.

#3 Evaluate the Likelihood: Combined with severity, the likelihood of the occurrence of an event will also determine if the risk should be rated high, medium, or low. This determines the chances of an accident happening or someone getting hurt.

#4 Profiling the Risk Category: Once a risk has been identified and its severity and likelihood established, it is important to understand who will be affected the most. This will have an impact on the control measures. For instance, employees may need to be provided with the appropriate training or protective equipment. Customers may need clear instructions on how to use the product. A particular site in the office may need a permit-to-work and only skilled workers may be assigned the task, and so on.

#5 Implement Controls: By ranking risks based on severity and likelihood, safety leaders can take up high risks for assessing the controls and implementing them on priority. This needs a hierarchy of control with measures based on severity and the effectiveness of the control. This could be eliminating the risk, substituting the risk with a less risky alternative, putting in engineering and administrative controls, or providing the employee with personal protective equipment.

#6 Record and Review: Once the matrix has been plotted, the results of the risk assessment should be communicated to all the relevant people. This should be followed by providing them with whatever training or skills they need to manage their risks. The risks should also be reviewed periodically for it is a continuous process. Any new learnings should be leveraged to fine tune the assessment process to improve the safety measures being implemented.

To get a clear representation of the risks and their severity and likelihood, identifying the risk categories becomes important to rate the risks. Though this may vary from company to company, they can be broadly categorized as high, medium, or low risks.

ComplianceQuest EHS for Efficient Risk Assessments

ComplianceQuest’s Environment, Health, and Safety Software is aligned with all major safety-related regulations such as Occupational Safety and Health Administration. It has a built in Risk Management Solution that integrates with modules such as Incident Management, Observations, Supplier, Management Review, and Permit to Work. A centralized repository of incidents, risks, and observations, provides safety leaders with all the data they need to identify, prioritize, and evaluate the risks.

Based on the data, the safety leaders can create their risk assessment matrix and identify the risks that they need to work on based on the severity and likelihood of occurrence. This can be documented, shared, and reviewed from within the system, making the risk assessment process effective. Training sessions can be planned and implemented based on the findings, and management reviews planned and conducted to constantly improve the safety management process and the risk matrix to make the workplace safer and healthier.

To know more about the Safety Risk Management Software and how you can use it to assess the risks in your organization, visit: https://www.compliancequest.com/ehs-risk-management/

For an online demo, click here: https://www.compliancequest.com/online-demo/

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