Williams Scotsman

Understanding and Evaluating Hazard Recognition and Risk Tolerance

Hazard recognition and risk tolerance

Learning to recognize hazards and establishing a low risk tolerance is the first and, perhaps, most important step toward instilling a climate of safety and reducing costs associated with poor safety performance.

What’s your Risk Tolerance? Does your team know how to recognize and correct hazards on the job site? Unsafe work behaviors are increased by inattention as a result of repetition and/or becoming complacent and overconfident with the job task. The result is an increase in unsafe behaviors that cause work-related injuries.

Hazard recognition requires daily practice. Teaching workers to evaluate every task or situation over the course of a project can have a tremendous impact on safety awareness and performance. Encourage workers to get used to asking and answering these questions:

  1. Am I physically and mentally ready to perform this task?
  2. Do I understand the task I have to complete?
  3. Do I have correct knowledge and safety procedures/equipment to complete this task?
  4. Do I have the right tools to complete the task?
  5. What could go wrong if performed incorrectly?
  6. How severe is that result?

Hazard recognition does NOT equal risk tolerance: One may recognize the hazard but disregard the risk.

Risk Tolerance can be simply defined as working with known unsafe behaviors, or, how much risk will I take before an injury or incident is certain.

A low risk tolerance ensures work is performed in a safe manner. Below are tips for recognizing hazardous behaviors and strategies for reducing risk:

Overestimating Capability / Experience

Hazard Recognition: I can lift 300 pounds in the gym, but that doesn’t mean I can do it here.

Low Risk Resolution: Acknowledge that despite your ability, the exposure/hazard/risk is still there. Pushing beyond physical limits only increases risk of injuries.

Familiarity with the Task / Complacency

Hazard Recognition: I have done it 500 times before, but I still need to pay attention and do it right.

Low Risk Resolution: Approach every task as though you’re doing it for the first time. Do you do it by the book or have you just been lucky?

No Consideration for Seriousness of the Outcome

Hazard Recognition: This could result in a major injury, or worse.

Low Risk Resolution: Always evaluate at the potential impact of high risk behaviors and find a safer way. Not all accidents involve only minor scraps or bruises.

Overconfidence in Protection

Hazard Recognition: I may be wearing my PPE, but that doesn’t mean I am indestructible.

Low Risk Resolution: Understand the limitations of protection (PPE) and think of it as the “Last Line of Defense” against injury, instead of a license to act recklessly.

Following Role Models Who Take Risks

Hazard Recognition: Just because they can do that, doesn’t mean I should.

Low Risk Resolution: Correct the high-risk behavior and lead by example.

So, where are you on the risk taking scale?

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