Risk assessments: Use consensus standards to help identify, evaluate, mitigate hazards

Risk assessments are among the best tools available for plants to use to promote workplace safety. They are a means for scrutinizing a process or piece of equipment to identify hazards, determine the severity of those hazards, and eliminate them or mitigate them to a tolerable level. Here are five major standards are currently associated with risk assessment, and one more you should know.

October 25, 2010

Risk assessments are among the best tools available for plants to use to promote workplace safety. They are a means for scrutinizing a process or piece of equipment to identify hazards, determine the severity of those hazards, and eliminate them or mitigate them to a tolerable level. Below are five major standards are currently associated with risk assessment, along with one more you should know.

The interpretative nature of risk assessments, and the specialized knowledge required to do them adequately, makes them difficult to perform, especially for those with little or no experience in hazard identification and evaluation. As a result, many facilities turn to outside consultants, enlisting help from experts who are more objective and well-versed in how to mitigate hazards. Whether or not you plan to do risk assessments on your own or with outside assistance, making them a part of the plant safety program just makes good business sense.

Becoming familiar with the tools and concepts of risk assessments is critical to understanding the process and knowing what questions to ask. “One good way to learn about risk assessments,” suggests Scott Krumwiede, manager, RWD Technologies, a leading provider of human and operational performance improvement solutions, “is to become acquainted with the standards and templates that have been developed to guide the process.”

Become familiar with standards

Five major standards are currently associated with risk assessment:

  • ANSI B11-TR3-2000: This technical report provides a means to identify hazards associated with a particular machine or system, and provides a procedure to estimate, evaluate, and reduce the risks of harm to individuals associated with these hazards under the various conditions of use of that machine or system;
  • ANSI/RIA R15.06-1999 (R2009): I This document contains information for identifying and weighting tasks and hazards. It covers safeguarding methods for enhancing the safety of personnel who use robots and robot systems;
  • ISO 12100-1: 2003: Safety of machinery—Basic concepts, general principles for design. This standard defines basic terminology and methodology used in achieving machine safety;
  • ISO 14121-1: 2007: . This standard establishes the general principles intended to be used to meet the risk reduction objectives established in ISO 12100-1:2003, clause 5. It also provides guidance on how to carry out a risk assessment, describes procedures for identifying hazards and estimating and evaluating risks, and helps in making decisions related to machinery safety and on the type of documentation required to verify the risk assessment carried out;
  • EN 954-1: Safety This European Union standard for machine safety is directed primarily at integrators and machine builders and includes procedures for hazard analysis as well as an easy-to-use graph for determining risk categories.

Beyond these five, a new standard is emerging, and threatening to bring significant change. Safety of machinery — Safety-related parts of control systems — Part 2: Validation.

Details of ISO 13849-1-2006 are too intricate to outline here, but anyone contemplating risk assessments is well-advised to become familiar with this standard as well. “In my opinion,” says Krumwiede, “asking companies to apply the statistical measures of ISO 13849-1-2006 may be unrealistic. It is more complicated than existing standards and beyond what most companies can handle…even with more time to comply. But further extensions are unlikely and companies doing business outside the U.S. might be unable to ship products abroad due to a push to utilize this standard to conduct risk assessments. It presents many challenges. Pick it up and take a look at it. You will need to.”

Don’t be overwhelmed

Despite the ominous portents of ISO 13849-1-2006, anyone contemplating risk assessments should not shy away from standards and the help they contain. Obtain copies of them and become familiar with them. They offer good information. EN 954-1 and ANSI/RIA R15.06-1999 (R2009) include tables and decision matrices that answer a lot of questions. Others provide flow charts. ANSI B11-TR3-2000 provides matrices that help rate hazards. “Look through them all,” advises Krumwiede. “Go through the processes outlined in each one and use the one you feel most comfortable with. As you become more familiar with the standards, you will migrate from one to another.”

Use consensus standards to educate yourself about risk assessments. “Then,” says Krumwiede, “determine which OSHA regulations you may be violating—and what a fine might cost. That cost alone may help justify the risk assessment.”

OSHA’s general duty clause gives the agency broad brush for imposing penalties. It is the employer’s responsibility to provide a safe workplace. Risk assessments provide an excellent way to achieve that safe workplace and standards offer guidance to get there. Says Krumwiede, “More often than not, OSHA asks for the risk assessment document during a compliance visit. It proves you are concerned with workplace safety and shows what have you done about it. And if your plant should have an incident, the risk assessment document indicates you took steps to try to keep that incident from happening.”

Get help, if necessary. Yes, a risk assessment costs; and it is an activity that doesn’t obviously impact the bottom line. It is hard to justify taking a machine down to install a guard, to justify the time to perform a risk assessment. When viewed in terms of insurance premiums, lost work days, and accident rates, however, the cost of one lawsuit should be justification enough, not to mention that your efforts may avoid an injury.

For more on equipment safety, visit the Siemens Website at www.sea.siemens.com/safety.

For more on risk assessments, visit the RWD Technologies Website at www.rwd.com.

Also read:

– Risk assessment: How do I weight manufacturing hazards that I’ve found? The risk involved with a given machine or process depends on what bad things can happen, and how likely they are. This risk analysis tutorial explains how to weight hazards.

– Risk assessments: Following these simple steps helps make safety a habit – Making safety a priority just makes good business sense. But is it really a habit at your place? The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) thinks it should be. Over the past year or so, the agency has shown renewed interest in workplace safety—and also in one of the primary tools available for promoting it: the risk assessment. See the four phases of risk assessment.

– Manufacturing risk mitigation, re-assessment, and the future – Tutorial: The first pass at making a risk assessment looks at the machine in its raw condition – without interlocks, guards, and other safety features. This allows us to clearly identify the possible failure conditions, and how likely they are to arise on their own. The second step is to…

For more on risk assessment standards or to purchase a copy of a standard, visit:

· American National Standards Institute at www.ansi.org;

· International Organization for Standardization at www.iso.org;

· European Committee for Standardization at www.cen.eu/cen.