Every piece of equipment usually poses some sort of hazard. From a simple piece of equipment such as a pencil sharpener all the way to a heavy-duty punch press machine, they all pose potential hazards when used inappropriately or incorrectly. The best and first defense against such hazards is to train and inform employees about such equipment hazards. However, before employees can be trained regarding specific equipment hazards, the actual “equipment hazards” need to be clearly and concisely identified. In order to identify specific hazards related to different pieces or equipment, an assessment should be conducted.
Equipment Hazard Assessment
OSHA recommends the following nine categories for consideration when identifying equipment hazards: impact, penetration, compression, chemical, heat, harmful dust, light radiation, drowning, and falling. Each of these categories outlines a real risk for injury that should be assessed accurately. Furthermore, OSHA also recommends that sources of hazards also be identified during the assessment. The sources that should be considered and accounted for include:
- Sources of motion; for example, machinery or processes where any movement of tools, machine elements or particles could exist, or movement of personnel that could result in collision with stationary objects.
- Sources of high temperatures that could result in burns, eye injury or ignition of protective equipment.
- Types of chemical exposures.
- Sources of harmful dust.
- Sources of light radiation, for instance, welding, brazing, cutting, heat treating, furnaces, and high intensity lights.
- Sources of falling objects or potential for dropping objects.
- Sources of sharp objects which might pierce or cut the hands.
- Sources of rolling or pinching objects which could crush the feet.
- Layout of work place and location of co-workers.
- Any electrical hazards.
- Review injury/accident data to help identify problem areas.
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Once all the hazards have been identified through the assessment, then the information should be compiled and shared with employees working with such equipment. One mistake that many employers make is that they assume that PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) will provide the needed protection for all employees and they neglect to fully train employees on the all the hazards associated with different pieces of equipment. One of the biggest causes of injury in the workplace is negligence. It is best to make sure each employee is properly trained and confident regarding the hazards associated with his or her job. It is a right of the employee to be trained and informed on the risks associated with any of his or her job functions.
Choosing the Right PPE
After employees have been informed and trained regarding the potential risks and hazards of specific equipment, then it is time to make sure the right protection is being used. PPE comes in all different forms from face and eye protection to full body and breathing protection. Furthermore, PPE is made using a variety of different materials based upon the type of hazard exposure. For instance, the PPE would be different for an employee working with electrical components than it would for an employee operating a drill press.
Effective hazard identification as well as proper training and PPE integration help to eliminate the risk for employee injuries tremendously. Never underestimate the power of hazard awareness as it can create a safer and more productive work environment.