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As an employer you have a business objective as well as a moral and legal obligation to provide and maintain a safe and healthy workplace that is, as far as reasonably practicable, free from risk and hazards. In doing so employers conducts risk assessment, this is intended to determine the potential harm to workers and other persons in the workplace, and implement control measures to eliminate these risks or to reduce them to a tolerable level.
The most important element in the risk management cycle is risk assessment usually comprises of a combination of risk identification and risk evaluation techniques which make it also the most complex element of the risk management cycle. Evolving out of this were two parts in conducting risk assessment they being quantitative and qualitative.
Quantitative Assessment was the more complex of the two as it depending on the collection and analysis of a great deal of data use to calculate probability and potential loss. This dependence of accuracy of data also acts as an Achilles heel for the process because of the share difficulty associated with data collection. However qualitative risk assessment is regarded as the lesser of two evils and is the most commonly used approach to risk analysis. This is due to the fact that probability data is not required thus making the process more attractive to safety practitioners and industries that are new to safety. Because there is no need for great amounts of historical data, companies that are newly expose to safety use this method simply because there is no data to collect. This paper discusses the different techniques to risk assessment, then describing the reasonable approach which can include both qualitative and quantitative approaches within a civil construction company.
Tee Pavers Limited is a local independent civil construction company locating at the southern part of Trinidad which has been in operation for the past 25 years. They have a workforce of over 120 skilled workers and a fleet of excavating, landscaping and asphalt paving machinery numbering in the hundreds. The company entertains government contracts for road construction and rehabilitation, they currently have a fully operating asphalt plant where they supply asphalt to several private and public companies throughout the country. Despite the number of years in operation the company was only recently introduced to Health and Safety as part of the compliance requirement of the OSH Act 2004 (Amended 2006). Figure 1 outline the detail process of road construction.
Is simple and straightforward. Just what is needed in a "safety- new" company such as Tee Pavers Limited
Can be complex and require suitable explanations. This process would not be well received at Tee Pavers Limited a company that is now being exposed to safety practices.
The Calculation of frequency of risk to worker is largely judgmental and does not require extensive data. This proves to be effective due to the fact that techniques such as JSA and PHA focus on job task in identifying hazards and workers can participate.
Calculation of frequency of risk to workers requires extensive, appropriate data that may not be relatively available. Thus as in the case with Tee Pavers where prior projects was done by gut feelings see that safety was never a concern.
It provides estimation of risk levels to workers to particular fault and hazards. This is a simple process that could be understood by all workers.
Provides numerical assessment of the level of risk.
It is best carried out by an experienced team of people throughout the assessment which may include operators, supervisor and long standing workers.
A team approach is best needed for the hazard identification stage. Techniques like FEMA and FTA usually need to be done by just a specialist to ensure consistency of logic.
Processes and results are deriving objectively, easily supported.
Process results are subjective and may not be repeatable.
It requires structure logic to identify controls, protection and mitigation measures to support decision made by analyst. This was evident that Tee Paver workers were resistant to change.
Logic is implied with quantitative, but requires explanation to support safety case arguments.
Does not readily lend itself to assessment of combinations of failures leading to a hazard on the road.
Assessment of combinations of failure is implied in techniques like FTA and ETA.
Risk analysis of all hazards and consequences not readily achievable since it is largely judgmental.
Risk analysis of hazards and consequences easily achievable.
Appropriate at early stages before the start of new project when identifying major hazards and risk. The use of the PHA is ideal for Tee's Paver road construction process.
Mainly appropriate at the later stages of the project when details of design and intended operation are known and data is available to support the assessment.
Evaluation of Risk Analysis of the Road Construction Process
Taking into consideration the five steps risk assessment process (Health and Safety Executives) will determine the type of risk assessment techniques needed qualitative or quantitative. Table 2 shows all the various risk assessment that can be consider in the road construction process. However due the nature of the organization and past safety culture I believe that qualitative assessment Job Safety Analysis (JSA) and Preliminary hazard analysis (PHA) would be a more effective with comparison to the quantitative approaches like FEMA and ETA which is too intense in terms of complexity, dependence on historical data and time consuming which does not sit well with this type of business that strives on spontaneous contracts.
Simplicity best describes Tee's Pavers road construction process; therefore the qualitative approach is ideal in identifying basic hazard and risk. During the early stages of operation and the details of the project is identified PHA can be used. This process encourages participation and so the Project manager, Engineer, Supervisors and the Health Safety Environmental personnel all work together to identify the major hazards, and rank them according to severity with the aim of implementing preventative measures.
The potential hazards identified during the phase 2 processes (Asphalt Paving). When laying the asphalt base the main hazardous events would be unprotected physical contact with the hot asphalt. The probability of a person getting burn from the hot asphalt is medium to high and the severity of injuries will also be medium to high. Therefore putting preventative measures in place would be easier, for instance; having workers wear insulated PPE thus reducing the risk factor.
This type of assessment is effective because it deals with the hazards and risks before the commencement of the projects and the fact that a wide array of employees are included means that effective preventive measures can be put in place. Some might argue that some of the hazard and risk may be overlooked since it is done before the project starts but in Tee Pavers case this process never changes, the worker are experience and thus the accident or incident rate is close minimum.
Safety is inevitable. The Occupational Safety and Health Act, 2004 (amended 2006) states that every employer must conduct a suitable and sufficient risk assessment. In complying with the OSH Act the safety official can achieve a two prong approach by introducing task based assessment (a form of qualitative assessment). This allows every worker irrespective of educational background to participate thus fostering awareness. Appendix 1 shows a simple effective JSA for asphalt laying road works which has deemed suitable and sufficient meeting all the requirements stated in TTS 620: 2008.
When you look at the culture of the workforce that predominates Tee Pavers you get the sense of being expose to the 1980's ones again. Workers with the average age of 46, limited educational qualification (some even partial illiterates), most of them originate from areas within 10 square miles of each other and the general sense of simply coming to work to do an honest day job without concern for "safety ills" driven by the competitive nature of individually "pleasing the boss". Taking that into consideration one can only select the qualitative approach considering conducting risk assessments. Initially introducing safety measures must be done in simple steps even thought safety is becoming mandatory the intension is to encourage the worker to buy into it not to view it as a hindrance or a threat.
Tee Pavers is undoubtedly a prime example of a company that would greatly benefit from qualitative assessment. Some of these benefits include complying with legislation fulfilling the requirements of every employer providing a workplace that is free from risk. I my view conducting qualitative risk assessments over a period of time prepares a company for the more detailed, accurate and more complex quantitative approach. The workers who were once naive with regards to safety and health would now be coached into maturity. This would prove to be a welcomed combination when companies would be venturing toward greater horizons.
However the stark reality is "it's all about money". With legislation playing a bigger part in the world of safety company now know that in order to be viewed as an attractive commodity they must show some level of compliance to these safety laws thus a concerted interest in the employment and establishment of safety department within these companies. These departments are mandated to establish safety guideline and assessments for projects (existing and proposed). The companies know that they will be audited and that successful audit would indicate compliance thus making them more marketable for new contracts. As distasteful as it sounds it is a reality that we face every day with existing and emerging companies competing for government contracts.