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PHA - the first step to assessing health and safety risks in your workplace

by , 02 April 2013
If you've been watching the news, you'd be forgiven for thinking that health and safety just isn't important in Tanzania. After all, in the past week, 49 people have died from health and safety incidents that could have been avoided. Don't let your employees suffer a similar fate! Conduct a PHA to ensure health and safety is top of mind at your company...

'At least 13 people were killed in the northern Tanzanian city of Arusha when the sides of a quarry caved in,' reports The International News. This comes just days after a building collapse killed 36 people in the east African nation's commercial capital.

And the worst part is, these people would probably still be alive if adequate health and safety policies had been in place.

But before you can set up a health and safety policy, you need to do a risk assessment.

And to do that, you need to know what hazards your employees face in the work place.

That's where PHA comes in…

What is PHA and how can it help protect the health and safety of your employees?

'Preliminary Hazard Analysis (PHA) is performed to document an initial risk assessment of a concept or system. It must identify safety-critical areas, evaluate hazards, and identify the safety design criteria to be used in a project,' explains occupational health and safety expert Wilna Louw in the Health and Safety Advisor.

To do a PHA, you need to consider the four types of health and safety hazards your employees are exposed to:

#1: Hazardous components. This includes fuels, explosives, toxic substances, hazardous construction materials, pressure systems, radiation sources, and other energy sources.

#2: Safety-related interface considerations among various elements of the system. For this part of your risk assessment, you must look at material compatibilities, electromagnetic interference, fire/explosion initiation and propagation, electrostatic susceptibility, and hardware and software controls, explains Louw.

#3: Environmental constraints including the operating environment. You should look for hazards such as vibration, extreme temperatures, asphyxiates, noise, exposure to toxic substances, fire, ionising and non-ionising radiation.

#4: Operating, testing, maintenance, emergency, and contingency procedures. During this part of your risk assessment look at 'human error analysis of operator functions, tasks and requirements; effects of factors such as equipment layout and lighting requirements; effects of noise or radiation on human performance; life support requirements and their safety implications in manned systems, crash safety, egress, rescue, survival and salvage,' advises Louw.

Bottom line: By conducting a PHA, you'll be able to document an initial risk assessment for every project or workplace. Once you understand the hazards that are putting your employees at risk, you can develop a health and safety policy that protects them to avoid tragedies like those you've been reading about in the news.

Use the HIRA (hazard identification and risk assessment) process in the Health and Safety Training Manual to identify hazards and risks in your company today! 

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