Safety Step

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Identifying Hazards

Identifying Hazards

A hazard is anything with the potential to cause harm. Sometimes hazards are easy to spot and have simple solutions — an icy stairway or a frayed plug on a kettle, for example. Other hazards are less obvious, and addressing them takes more creative thinking. For example, what could happen to staff or customers if there’s a robbery, an earthquake, or a fire?

Regardless of their complexity, the first step is to identify the hazards in your shop. It's best to take a systematic approach. For example:

  1. Inspect the worksite
  2. Use a hazard identification checklist when you do your inspection
  3. Look for new hazards when new equipment, chemicals or people are brought in
  4. Ask workers about the hazards they face
  5. Look at your first aid records. If there are patterns, talk to the crew and get to the root causes

For more detailed information on doing inspections and identifying hazards, please go the module on Hazard Identification.

Once hazards are identified, the next step is to size up the risk they pose. If hazard is the potential to cause harm, risk is the likelihood that a hazard will in fact cause harm. Identifying the level of risk will enable you to prioritize the actions you'll take in order to minimize the level of risk they pose for staff and the public.

Please click here for more information and helpful tools for sizing up the risks and controlling them.

OHS Committees

Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) Committees

How formal a company’s program needs to be generally depends on the size of the company. Across Canada OHS committees are known by slightly varying names: joint health and safety committee; industrial health and safety committee; joint work site health and safety committee; occupational health committee; workplace safety and health committee; or, health and safety committee. In British Columbia, a formal program that includes the involvement of an OHS committee is required where there is:

  • A workforce of 20 or more workers, and at least one workplace at which there is a moderate or high risk of injury
  • A workforce of 50 or more workers

A business with a smaller workforce requires a less formal OHS program. For example, companies with fewer than 20 workers can have a Safety Representative instead of a health and safety committee.

In Alberta, health and safety committees are only mandatory for those work sites required by Ministerial Order to have a committee. For all other work sites in Alberta, the establishment of a committee is voluntary.

For information regarding committee requirements for all Canadian jurisdictions visit the Human Resources and Skills Development Canada website at

Role of the OHS Committee

OHS committees are made up of worker and employer representatives working together to identify and resolve health and safety issues. There must be an atmosphere of cooperation in order for a committee to effectively fulfill its roles, which include:

  • Identifying and recommending solutions to problems, and promoting safety
  • Recommending actions that will improve health and safety management
  • Promoting compliance with OHS Regulations
  • Dealing with employee suggestions concerning health and safety
  • Monitoring and following-up hazard reports and recommend actions
  • Participating in incident investigations if ever things go wrong and an employee is put at serious risk or injured.

Useful information:

The WorkSafeBC workbook Joint Occupational Health and Safety Committee

The WorkSafeBC Small Business Health & Safety Log Book

Continually Improving Safety

Continually Working to Improve Safety Management

To manage safety, employers have to make safety a priority and demonstrate their commitment.

Any business has to look ahead, learn from the past and assess its performance if it wants to move forward and improve. Managing safety is the exactly the same: it’s an ongoing process of learning and improving. Just as with any other performance review, records and statistics can and should be used to improve safety management.

The table below outlines some ways you might use data from incidents for statistical analysis:

Consider the Type
  • Near misses
  • First aid only
  • Health care only
  • Time-loss injury
Look at the Data:
  • Number of incidents
  • Frequency of incidents
  • Number of injuries
  • Types of injuries
  • Severity of injuries
  • Number of days lost
Analyze Your Data
  • Compare monthly and annual results
  • Compare type of work or activity
  • Compare shifts
  • Compare worker experience and training

Management is required to meet regularly to review health and safety activities and incident trends. These meetings provide an opportunity to:

  • Talk about feedback, suggestions, and concerns from workers
  • Respond to recommendations arising from inspections and safety committees
  • Review policies and procedures for relevance
  • Work to improve the existing health and safety program
  • Review statistics

Management has to communicate decisions and activities on health and safety matters to supervisors and workers.

Learning from the Unexpected

Learning from the Unexpected

Taking the time to learn from past experiences is one of the most important steps you can take toward preventing work-related injury. It is essential for effective safety management.

Whenever there is an incident (such as an accident or close call), try to learn from it so that it doesn’t happen again. While memories are still fresh, find the root causes of the problem, and then address them.

Find out what happened......and also how and why it happened – get the big picture:

  • Take control of the scene
  • Check the equipment/materials involved
  • Protect the scene to preserve evidence – rescue work is the only exception
  • Take pictures of the scene
  • Interview witnesses and keep notes. Get written statements from those involved
  • Find out the root cause(s)
  • Write down corrections you need to make
  • Follow-up promptly and address the causes

Employers are required by law to formally investigate incidents that:

  • Resulted in serious injury to a worker or the death of a worker
  • Resulted in injury to a worker requiring medical treatment, or
  • Had the potential to cause serious injury

For detailed information and resources for investigating and learning from incidents please go to the module on Incident Investigations.

Keeping Records

Keeping Records

Good records of accidents and close calls (often called 'near misses') are an important part of safety management. They help to identify both safety risks and solutions. They are also required by law and can protect employers from orders and fines if ever a worker is injured on the job.

Make sure you keep records showing that you:

  • Make your safety policy clear to workers
  • Make specific people responsible for safety, and support them in their work
  • Involve management in inspections and investigations
  • Respond promptly to safety concerns
  • Talk about safety at management meetings
  • Require subcontractors to work safely
  • Look for injury trends at your work sites
  • Do your best to control hazards
  • Properly maintain your equipment
  • Review your safety program at least yearly
  • Properly train and supervise workers
  • Hold workers accountable for safety

Examples of records to keep:

  • Worker orientations and safety training
  • Hazard inspection reports or completed checklists along with evidence of follow-up
  • Incident investigations and follow-up
  • Logs of disciplinary action to enforce safety
  • Notes on safety discussions and talks, and evidence of follow-up to address safety issues
  • Equipment log books and maintenance records
  • First aid records
  • Exposures to harmful substances
  • Emergency response drills
  • Safety related expenses
  • Accident and injury statistics, showing any trends – negative or positive
  • Records showing use of progressive discipline to enforce safety rules and written safe work procedures
  • Joint OHS committee meeting reports showing steps taken to address health and safety issues

Training and Supervision

Training and Supervision

Injuries often occur simply because people do not have the knowledge and skills that we assume they have. A key benefit of training is that it can make people aware of what they don’t know.

Everyone needs some training when they start a new job, do a new task, or use an unfamiliar piece of equipment. Employers have a responsibility to ensure that workers get the training they need to work safely at their store.

Safety is not Being Managed Very Well Unless:

  • Store staff are being given the information, training, and supervision necessary to protect their health and safety, and
  • Supervisors have the support and training necessary to carry out their health and safety responsibilities

One of the key responsibilities of supervisors is to make sure that workers are safe – that workers know what the hazards are and that they follow all the instructions they’ve been given in order to do their jobs safely. It takes constant re-enforcement, positive recognition for jobs well done, and constructive correction until the job is consistently done safely and well.

That means training doesn’t just stop when the official training session is over. Good supervision keeps training current, and refresher training should be given whenever there are changes to the way things are done.

Please visit the more detailed module on providing good training and supervision to find out more!

Creating Written Instructions

Creating Written Instructions

Where hazards can't be brought fully under control, written step-by- step instructions must be provided to help staff control the risk of work related injury.

In the technical language of health and safety, written instructions are often called “Safe Work Procedures”, “Practices” or “Documented Procedures”. Ultimately, all those words just refer to having written instructions.

The point of writing down step-by-step instructions is to make sure everyone knows how to handle certain situations and do certain jobs safely. Written instructions are essentially handy reminders of things people need to learn during hands-on training.

Written instructions are also very useful tools for providing new workers with practical, on-the-job training. They ensure that everyone gets the same information, which helps to maintain consistency.

Written instructions also help to improve productivity: people don’t have to start from scratch every time they face a new task and they have a guide when they forget how to do something.

What kinds of written instructions does your staff need?

Having written instructions for dealing with emergencies is mandatory. Written instructions should also be created for:

Preparing written instructions can take considerable time and effort. But doing a good job is worth it. The clearer the instructions, the better they will be followed and the more they will be used.

Here are some tips to help streamline the process of writing instructions:

  • Involve the people who regularly do the job and, if you have one, the joint health and safety committee
  • Break down the task into small steps
  • Put the steps in order and number them
  • Identify the hazards of each step
  • Try to remove the hazards by changing something about the way the task gets done. If you can’t change the task, find a way to control the hazard
  • Write short clear sentences
  • Use “active” words (e.g., ‘lift the cover...’ not ‘the cover must be lifted...’)
  • Make them easy to look at and easy to use. Use big headings and leave lots of empty space.

Click here for a couple of examples of written instructions - one is for staff working alone, the other is for preventing cuts while using box cutters.

Keep your written instructions up to date. Few things are more frustrating than trying to follow instructions for equipment that has been replaced and no longer exists. Review written instructions at least once a year and update them when things change. Improve the way things get done by asking for feedback from the people who do the work.

Controlling Hazards

Controlling Hazards

Hazard control is another key to good safety management. The goal is to minimize risk by reducing or eliminating the chance that a hazard results in harm. This is achieved by bringing any significant hazards under control.

Look at the business decisions that affect safety. Start with the big ones, like whether to repair or upgrade your equipment, and work your way down until you find a practical solution.

For Example:

  • First: Remove the hazard completely. For instance, if damaged equipment is causing the hazard, fix it or replace it
  • Second: Substitute dangerous materials or equipment with safer ones. For example, a cleaning solution that gives off toxic fumes can be replaced with a non-toxic alternative.
  • Third: Minimize the risk to workers. For example, install guards on moving equipment, or use a check-in procedure for people working alone
  • Fourth: Use written instructions, signs or rules to isolate people from hazards.  Create “Do not enter” zones where needed, for example.
  • Last: Make sure people use protective equipment or clothing if they need it. Remember, this is the last line of defense, not the first!

If hazards can't be brought fully under control, employers are required to provide written instructions to support safe work.

For more detailed information and useful resources, please see Hazard Evaluation and Control.

Safety Policy: Make a Commitment

Make a Commitment

Putting Intentions Into Words

Managing safety begins with the expression of a shared vision for the safety of everyone who enters our stores.

Canadian Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) Regulations require employers to put their safety goals and intentions in writing.  This written document explains and communicates everyone's safety roles — including those of the employer, the supervisors and staff.

Sometimes this is referred to as a “Safety Policy” or a “Safety Commitment”. No matter what you call it, it's all about making a strong commitment and putting it in writing so that everyone’s responsibilities are clear, you can hold each other accountable and, best of all, you can celebrate success.

Click here for tips on writing your own Safety Commitment in discussion with supervisors and staff.

Your written commitment will set the tone for safety management in your business. Make sure it says what you want it to say and make sure it is (and stays) meaningful. Review it at least once a year to gauge your progress and keep it relevant. 

Good Safety: First Things First

Good Safety Management

First Things First

Did you know that the safety record of your business is connected to its success?

WorkSafeBC statistics, for example, show that small businesses with the lowest injury rates tend to stay in business longer than those with higher injury rates. In other words, the more likely it is for workers to get hurt, the sooner a business is likely to shut down. This implies that safety can and should be managed like any other aspect of business — that good safety management is an integral part of good business management.

At WCSA, we believe good safety management is only achieved when it becomes a normal part of our daily routines as owners, managers and staff — when it becomes habitual. In order to create stores where safety is the norm for everyone, good habits have to start at the top. In other words, safety needs to be managed at all levels so that it simply becomes the way we do our business.

The Keys to Good Safety Management Are:

Safety success is just like business success. It requires the input and participation of everyone at work. Some parts of Canada have special rules about how workers, managers, supervisors and employers work together formally to make safety habitual. Check here to find out if you need to have an Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) Committee.

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