Hazard Evaluation & Control

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Hazard Evaluation and Control

Every hazard carries some risk – a chance that it could actually result in harm. It's important to evaluate hazards to determine how great that risk is.  Hazards that pose more than mild risk need to be brought under control.   

If you’re looking at this module, you’ve probably already done a safety inspection to identify the hazards in your store.  This module will help you take the next steps. 

Evaluating Hazards (Sizing Up Risk)

We've defined a hazard as anything with the potential to cause harm, and risk as the likelihood that it will cause harm.   

The first step in deciding how to approach controlling any hazard is to determine the magnitude of risk associated with it.  This is often called “hazard evaluation”. 

A simple way to evaluate a hazard is to multiply two factors:

  1. The potential consequences associated with a hazard (severity) and
  2. The likelihood that those consequences will occur. 

The table below illustrates the relationship between them. 

Class “C” hazards present relatively little risk.  

Class “B” hazards pose more serious risks.  Take steps right away to get the hazard under control.  

Class “A” hazards are intolerable. Stop work and make sure the hazard is under control before going on.  

The class into which hazards fall is the basis for deciding how to prioritize your plans for controlling them. The Hazard Assessment Table illustrated here is a simple, effective way of assessing risks and prioritizing plans for dealing with them.  

Sometimes, however, situations are a bit more complex and there may be other things to consider.  For example:  

  • The frequency of exposure – the more often people are exposed to the hazard, the greater the risk.   
  • The duration of the exposure – the longer they are exposed to the hazard, the greater the risk. 
  • Whether there are additional circumstances that might affect the risk of injury. 

In other words, circumstances can magnify risk.  For example, the risk of getting cut by a meat slicer is greater if workers are using the slicer throughout the day. Using the meat slicer might also present a greater risk for someone who has poor eyesight than for someone who can see clearly.  

Working alone is another example.  In retail, there are a lot of steps you can take to help prevent a robbery from happening, but the hazard of robbery – however small – is always present.  If a person is working alone, the hazards associated with robbery are magnified in the absence of a check-in procedure and robbery prevention plan.   

What this means is that controlling hazards could require a multi-faceted approach. 

How Can Hazards be Controlled? 

Sometimes hazards can be eliminated altogether but, most often, measures need to be put in place to properly manage them.   It helps to be systematic.  

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 - Can you eliminate the hazard?: For instance, if damaged equipment is causing the hazard, can you remove the hazard completely by fixing or replacing the equipment? 

Second - Can you substitute hazardous materials or equipment with safer ones.  For example, a cleaning solution that gives off toxic fumes could be replaced with a non-toxic alternative. 

Third - To what extent can you isolate staff and customers from hazards?  Blocking a lane at a filling station during servicing will isolate the technician from vehicles, but not from risks at the pump itself...   

Fourth - To what extent can engineering controls minimize risk – for example, guards on a meat slicer or other moving or hot equipment?  

Fifth - Can good administration be used?  These might include written instructions, signage to warn of hazards or “Do not enter” zones. A check-in procedure for people working alone is another example.

Last - If the first five steps fail to eliminate risk, make sure people use the right protective equipment or clothing if they need it. Remember, this is the last line of defense, not the first! 

Otherwise known as the Hierarchy of Hazard Controls this step-by-step approach can help you find the most reasonable and effective way to minimize risk of injury.   

Typically more than one type of control is used.  For example, toxic cleansers may be replaced with non- toxic cleansers but staff can still benefit from recommended protective clothing, such as gloves and goggles.  

In any situation in which a hazard can’t be brought fully under control, employers are required to provide written instructions to support safe work and to make sure workers receive the training and supervision they need to work safely.

Once you know what you want to do and how you’re going to do it, assign responsibility for getting the job done.  Set a deadline and make sure it gets met. A Hazard Control Form will help you put your hazard control plan in writing and document who is responsible for what.


Hazard controls need to be reviewed periodically to make sure they are still effective and appropriate.  This can be part of your regular safety inspections. Talking with staff and the Joint Health and Safety Committee (if you have one) is an excellent way to start to get an idea about how well controls are working and what could be done even better. 

Some questions to consider when reviewing hazard controls are: 

  • Is the hazard under control?  Have the steps taken to manage it solved the problem? 
  • Are the risks associated with the hazard under control too? 
  • Have any new hazards been created? 
  • Are new hazards being controlled appropriately? 
  • Do workers know about the hazard and what has been done to control it? 
  • Do workers know what they need to do to work safely? 
  • If there is a new hazard, are workers trained properly to deal with it? 
  • Are there written records of all identified hazards, their risks, and the control measures taken? 
  • What else can be done? 
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