All hazards that are found in the workplace should be reported immediately to a supervisor, the safety department or management. This is a standard practice that should exist in any workplace and every employee should be made aware that this is the appropriate action to take should they encounter any hazard or potential hazard they discover. However, many employees may feel (justified or not) that the hazards they encounter, sometimes on a daily basis, are just how things are and reporting them is not necessary. Designing, setting up and communicating a Hazard Reporting Program is a good idea for any business to help avoid this potentially dangerous attitude. Implementing a Hazard Reporting Program will help ensure that your workplace is safer for your employees and reduce costly incidents or business interruptions.
All employees should be trained in hazard recognition and avoidance. Hazard Reporting is a critical part of this training so that employees know exactly what to do when they encounter a hazard they can’t immediately correct. Don’t get overwhelmed by the word “training” because you can design the training to be as simple as you need for your specific team. Depending on the types of hazards your employees might encounter, this training could be a mandatory all-day in-person training session for high-hazard jobs, or on-the-job training led by a competent supervisor, or even a 30-minute safety meeting. For low-hazard jobs, at least consider an annual online training or email reminder so employees understand hazard reporting is not only acceptable but also expected.
During hazard reporting training, the following points should be emphasized:
- What is an unsafe condition that should be reported? This is any circumstance found in the workplace that could allow an incident to occur that might harm people, equipment or property. Give examples specific to your workplace such as rusted or broken tools, inadequate PPE provided, containers that are not labeled, insufficient stairway lighting, broken machine guards, or a leaking refrigerator in the break room.
- What is an unsafe act that should be reported? This is any behavior that could lead to an incident that might harm people, equipment or property. Unsafe acts might not be intentional. Examples of unsafe acts might include using equipment in a careless manner or not using PPE as required.
- What should be done if an unsafe condition or act is witnessed in the workplace? This depends on the hazard reporting procedure in your workplace so be specific. Let employees know exactly what steps they should take which could be filling out a form or verbally telling a supervisor.
- When should a hazard be reported? Any unsafe condition or act should be reported immediately, or at the next available safe opportunity that the employee has to do so.
- What should employees expect after a hazard is reported? Let employees know what the expected time frame is for corrective and preventative measures that are expected and how employees can follow-up on the corrections progress, if needed.
- Where can employees find a copy of the Hazard Reporting Procedure? Are hard copies of procedures kept at headquarters, or is the Safety Manual found online on the company’s intranet? It’s important that employees know how they can access all company policies and procedures on their own.
You can start simple when it comes to implementing a hazard reporting system in your workplace, and then let this program evolve as the company grows, significant workforce is hired or new industry sectors are added.
Here are some examples of what a hazard reporting program might look like, simple to more complex. Design a program that works for your company and your employees. Document the procedure in a step-by-step format that is easy to understand and the communicate to your employees what the process is and where they can find the procedure to reference at any time.
Incident and accident reporting is critical, and near-miss incident reporting is important, but hazard reporting is also extremely necessary for the safety of your workforce. Addressing a potential hazard before it causes an injury or property damage can save any company significant losses. Giving employees an avenue that they can pursue to report hazards and unsafe acts empowers them to feel like they are an integral part of the company, but only if those hazards are addressed, corrected and resolved.
A successful workplace safety and health program includes a hazard reporting process that is effective. Hazard reporting ensures employees:
- are involved in your safety management system
- aware and vigilant for current safety issues
- respect safety management as a means of creating a safe, productive work environment
Hazard reporting ensures that supervisors, managers and the safety department have the information they need to control hazards before they become a liability, ultimately saving the company money.
If employees are reluctant to report hazards in the workplace, here are some great ways to improve the quality of hazard reporting in your safety program.
- Make reporting as easy as possible.
- Ensure there is no negative stigma and no punishment attached to hazard reporting.
- Give recognition to those who submit hazard reports.
- Engage workers in the resolution of hazards to ensure the correction is satisfactory for all involved and does not create additional hardships inadvertently.
- Keep an open discussion about safety issues, perhaps following up on the specific hazard reported at the next safety meeting.
- Never assign blame to an individual when it comes to hazards found. Rather, attribute hazards to “systems” like insufficient budget assigned for tool replacements, lack of training, or comprehensive process needed.
- Post signs or posters around the workplace that reinforces the message that unsafe conditions and acts must be reported.
Hosting a safety meeting on hazard reporting is an excellent way to get the word out to employees about your hazard reporting process and expectations.
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