What is a Hazard Recognition Triangle?
The Hazard Recognition Triangle is a great way to visually assess levels of risks and hazards in the workplace. By manipulating a few fields across three core safety categories, workers can reasonably assess the level of risk associated with specific tasks.
Using the hazard recognition triangle prior to performing a task is a great habit to get into. When repeated, this simple act trains you to be constantly aware of risks and hazards and to always plan ahead.
The hazard recognition triangle considers all of the variables that contribute to health and safety management and sorts them into 3 core categories.
A workplace assessment consists of evaluating the condition of housekeeping, lighting conditions, dust, and all other work environment factors. When workspaces are free of physical interference, workers have a much stronger chance of working safely.
Assessing the task definition involves measuring how accurately the task is described as well as understood. When each step of the process is well documented and communicated, the risk of harm is greatly reduced.
Arguably the most important health and safety factor is experience with the task at hand. This category should include certification, hours/years of experience, and if the scope of the task has changed. More on this later.
How To Use A Hazard Recognition Triangle
Hazard recognition triangles are scored on a range of 1 to 5 for each of the three categories. A score of 1 indicates the least amount of risk while a score of 5 indicates advanced risk. Your goal is to maximize the green (scores of 1 or 2) values of the triangle and to constantly manage each factor that contributes to risks and hazards to either eliminate the issues or reduce the potential for harm. By applying a score between 1 and 5, you are forcing yourself to consider all of the hazard variables of your task. This naturally leads to determining how to address individual factors to remove or reduce risk.
Level or Risk
When assessing hazards and levels of risk it’s important to be consistent, especially when communicating with others. Individual opinions often differ, which could be dangerous in this situation. For example, the same set of information could be assessed by two different people producing two different scores. If you are told that a risk situation is in the green when, in reality, it’s well into the yellow zone of the triangle you could be walking into a hazardous situation.
To avoid miscommunication, use these basic guidelines:
Low – Ideal
Definition: Risks and hazards exist. However, both the likeliness and potential severity are low.
Action: Proceed with tasks, but continue to monitor the known risks to ensure that the likeliness and level of severity do not increase.
Medium – Caution
Definition: Hazards and risks are too high to be able to work safely. However, with a little attention to the condition of the workplace, defining the scope of work more clearly, gaining more relevant experience, or a combination of the three, risk levels can be lowered into the safe-to-work category.
Action: Do not proceed with the work. Improve each point of the hazard recognition triangle to reduce potential risks and severity levels. If needed, escalate the issue to the superintendent for thorough analysis and action.
High – Danger
Definition: Risks must be significantly reduced before work can safely proceed.
Action: Do not proceed with the work. Remedies may include the superintendent, safety department, and project manager depending on the breadth of the issue(s).
Assessing The Workplace:
“In the Green” or 1 = Good. Housekeeping is good, dry & level ground, good lighting, good air, unobstructed access, good ergonomics, not too noisy, no dust/fumes, no traffic, etc.
“In the Red” or 5 = Not Good. Poor housekeeping, tight working conditions, dusty, poorly lit, slippery walkway, wet area, cluttered, congestion, noisy, hot, cold, windy etc.
Assessing The Job Definition:
1 = Green, we know all the steps in this job and the details about the work, and good context has been provided. We know the right resources required to do the work and can clearly define each job step before we start the work. We know what equipment and tools we will need and have planned them for the work. We can safely predict how the job will flow. The job steps are consecutive and predictable. The job steps and work lineup are “paint-by-number”
5 = Red, “We’ll figure it out as we go”. We’ve never done this job before and haven’t been shown how, we can’t define the steps before we start the job, we’re not exactly sure what supplies we need, not sure of the tools & equipment needed, how much time is required to do the work or how many people we might need, we can’t predict what will happen or what is required after each step, we can’t foresee the workflow or how things will progress. We’re not used to this job and we don’t really have a good plan before we start work.
Experience is the big one, it’s a critical assessment. Consider your experience and the experience of everyone involved in the work from the supervisor to your partner, to yourself.
What’s my experience in: Performing the task? Working in this area? Working in these conditions? Operating this particular piece of equipment? Using this tool? Working with this person? Working for this supervisor? Working for this company?
What’s my partner’s experience in: Performing this task? Working in this area? Working in these conditions? Operating the equipment? Using these tools? Working with me? Working for this supervisor? For this company?
What’s my Supervisor’s experience with: Have they assigned this type of work before? Do they understand the work and the job steps? What is their knowledge of the area, policies, and procedures that apply? What’s my supervisor’s understanding of the working conditions, equipment, tools, and other processes in the area?
We need to consider all these areas of experience and make special note if any task within the job is being performed by any employee in the group for the first time. Assign a score of 1 to 5.
Scoring a crew member:
A crew member who has never performed the work before will automatically score a 5. A quick guideline around scoring:
- To move from a 5 to a 4 is to have done the task 5 times
- To move up to a 3, a total of 10 times
- To move up to a 2, a total of 20 times
- To move up to a 1, a total of 50 times
Of course, not every task is the same nor is every person. Some crew members learn faster than others. Some tasks are easier to learn and less risky than others. Everything needs to be considered in relation to each other for a proper assessment.
Scoring the crew as a group:
A score of 1 can be given to a crew where all members have done this task many times before and under similar workplace conditions, using similar processes, equipment & tools and the crew has worked together before. The crew is in tune with the work and each other.
A score of 5 needs to be given if any of the critical steps in the task is going to be performed by a crew member for the first time.
Scoring a Supervisor:
The supervisor’s experience can greatly influence the scoring of a crew, especially if they are present and involved for the duration of the work.
A very experienced supervisor can improve the crew by:
– personally giving instructions to the crew
– providing inexperienced individuals step-by-step instructions
– Providing coaching and training on certain tasks
– monitoring the actions of the crew members as the job progresses, “supervising the work”
These actions can move an inexperienced crew from a 5 to a 3, or even a 2. The supervisor’s role in health and safety is crucial. They are tasked with developing the skill levels of individuals as well as the group as a whole.
Scoring First Timers:
Instances where an employee is uncomfortable doing a job for the first time need special attention and handling in order to start the experience development. Supervisors need to ensure inexperienced employees are developed in a safe and comfortable manner and receive the proper training oversight required. All the necessary information and instructions to show the correct methods for performing tasks safely must be provided.
Experience plays a very important role in effectively managing hazards identified in the workplace. Inexperience at any level in the work unit which is not effectively managed can place everyone at risk. The Supervisor must understand the experience of the crew as a unit and every crew member within it when assigning work. They must themselves be experienced in the hazards associated with the work for which they are supervising.
The significance of Experience when assessing risks and hazards
As mentioned, experience is a critical factor when assessing risks, and this needs to be evaluated carefully.
The level of risk can be fairly obvious when a new employee is working at a task for the first time. However, what about a seasoned veteran of the organization who has been working on the same task repeatedly for years?
A change to the scope of work, be it an adjusted process or a new tool, will change the experience level of the worker. Even the same task in a new environment can lower a worker’s experience level. Beyond assessing a worker’s general experience level with a task, it’s important to also evaluate every single condition to the task. You may find that, although they are highly experienced, there are factors that lower their safety levels.
Health and safety is a very big picture to observe and requires constant re-evaluation to minimize risk.
Speak with one of our occupational health and safety experts to discover how sofvie leverages tools like the hazard recognition triangle to enhance your organization’s health and safety framework.