Hazard recognition

30 October, 2015  |  News

A construction safety researcher told SIA delegates that neither workers nor managers are as skilled at hazard recognition as the researchers assumed, but that interventions they devised and tested boosted hazard recognition under test conditions to close to 80 percent.

Assistant Professor Matthew Hallowell from the University of Colorado said the field of health and safety needs more evidence to help devise new solutions and show they are effective, and partnerships between industry and academics are the way to achieve this.

He described a project involving two universities and 18 companies in the construction sector to identify pressing issues and create new solutions. Hazard recognition popped up as a key issue. “It’s an undeniable truth that workers must be able to perceive what is risky so that can decide if they are going to tolerate that risk.”

Hazard recognition drives risk perception, which affects risk tolerance and thus behaviour and performance – not only of workers, but of everyone in the value stream, including designers. Safety in design, said Hallowell, was growing only slowly in the USA, in part because designers need to improve their hazard recognition skills.

“Is there an injury prevention strategy that does not require hazard recognition skills?”

None of the group’s 18 companies knew the level of hazard recognition of their staff, which prompted some initial testing based on hazards conceived in terms of energy sources. People were presented with pictures of work scenes and asked to spot hazards. The average success rate was 45%, with designers coming in at 38%.

Three hazard recognition interventions were devised: one used augmented reality, another sought to boost the quality of hazard communications at pre-start meetings, and the third used a change management methodology.

All three interventions were gradually introduced, with the aggregated outcome being that hazard recognition scores improved from 45% to 73%. Further improvements got it up to 80%, but that proved to be the plateau.

Of the potential hazardous energy sources, gravity and motion were the most easily recognised, while the hazard most often missed related to excavation and soil.

Hallowell said the research showed hazard recognition is a skill which can be improved, and that energy mnemonics work well provided they are embedded into useful tools which spur engagement and retention.

Source: Alert24 2/11/15, safeguard.co.nz