The Occupational Safety and Health Act requires employers to identify risks and hazards. In addition, on a construction site, the main contractor is under a special obligation to identify the hazards caused by construction work and assess the related risks. The realisation of risks and hazards should primarily be prevented. This can be done in the planning phase. Secondarily, the identified hazards and risks should be eliminated. If hazards and risks cannot be eliminated, their impact on the health and safety of employees must be evaluated, meaning that the magnitude of the risk must be estimated. Actions should be specified on the basis of the magnitude of risk, and the actions with a more general impact should be prioritised over actions with individual impacts.
Many assessment perspectives
Risk assessments cover several perspectives. Fingrid’s contract terms concerning safety require risk assessments for individual projects or contracts, assessments of the risks of work, and a safety planning at work locations.
Risk assessments for projects or contracts aim to provide a comprehensive overview of the occupational health and safety risks arising during the project or contract. This risk assessment should consider the working environment, conditions, and risks and hazards of the work as comprehensively as possible, and it should identify any work or work locations that pose a special risk.
The risk assessment should define the magnitude of risk, action to be taken, people responsible for taking action, and the residual risk for each identified risk or hazard. However, it is not possible to identify all risks and hazards in advance. For this reason, it is important to update the risk assessment regularly, whenever new hazards are detected, if an accident occurs, or in the event of a near miss.
The magnitude of risk is determined following the prioritisation of actions and the consideration of an acceptable level of risk. The most significant risks are primarily eliminated and, in addition, the acceptable magnitude of risk is considered. ‘Acceptable risk’ must be precisely defined in order to make decisions on whether to take action. The purpose of residual risk is to assess the impact of the specified measures on the magnitude of risk.
Assess and plan first
Assessing the risks of work is a factor in planning the safe performance of work. Fingrid’s contract terms concerning safety require work and work locations that pose a particularly special risk to be identified. The risks of work must be assessed for these. The people best able to plan the performance of work are the employees themselves. For this reason, the contract terms also require suppliers to arrange risk assessment events that involve employees.
The work and work locations that pose a particularly severe hazard should be identified primarily as part of the risk assessment for the specified project/contract. However, this is not always possible. It is challenging if a working group only notices that a work location is particularly demanding or dangerous once it arrives in the location. For this reason, suppliers should have considered their practices with regard to how working groups conduct risk assessments of the work in these circumstances and how worksite managers participate in these risk assessment events.
When the risks of work are assessed, the work is broken down into smaller components, and consideration is given to how the work can be done safely. Fingrid’s Quentic reporting system has a dedicated work risk assessment form for this purpose. The form has different fields for each phase of the work, the identified risks and hazards, the action to be taken, and the people responsible for taking action. Suppliers can also use their own forms for risk assessment if they wish.
Safety planning on the worksite supplements other safety planning. In practice, the on-site working group should ensure that the necessary plans and risk assessments have been completed and that the work can be done accordingly. If the work cannot be done safely, it must be suspended until plans have been made to guarantee that it can be done safely.
This is strongly connected to the Think Before You Act mindset. Before starting any work, it is a good idea to take a couple of steps back from the work location, observe the working environment, and think for a moment.
Identifying hazards and assessing risks are not only aspects of the systematic safety planning of work, the working environment and the conditions; they are also a continuous process, which should involve everyone on Fingrid’s worksites.
The next time you notice a risk or hazard, submit a safety observation at www.fingrid.fi/havainto. This is one way to contribute to the development of the working environment and working conditions. Occupational safety is down to the attitudes of individual people, but we always do it together!