yes, we’re dividing your workplace into four possible safety quadrants. Hopefully your workplace actually only is in one of these, or is working toward it.
Vladimir Ivensky wrote a piece in Professiona Safety magazine about safety, and how perception can often mean everything in terms of hazards and risks in a workplace. I’ve written a series of blog posts in regards to this article, and this tome will focus on the four quadrants in which a safety risk is determined, using the mathematical formula mentioned in the article, where the severity of the risk is determined by dividing the hazard by the safety control. And this formula applies whether the hazard and risk are actual or just perceived by a worker or supervisor.
Perception does matter. Even if the actual control is appropriate for the hazard, a worker (or more) may well see the hazard as a much bigger thing and may suggest that the control is not adequate, and thus the worker may feel a higher risk of injury or worse. Or, a person may see the control as being too heavy for the perceived “lack” of hazard, and that may lead to the worker feeling annoyed or frustrated.
The mathematical formula produces four quadrants of hazard and control, and here we wil try to present real-life scenarios that explain each quadrant, so you could assess your workplace for the quadrants that are at play in your workplace and learn what to address to make your workers feel safer.
Quadrant 1: High Hazard/High Control
This is the quadrant where you will likely get support from the rank-and-fole for the safety program, because the workers understand the high risks they take but understand the extraordinary steps the company takes to make worker safety a top priority.
One exampple of this, which Ivensky notes, could be having several safety officers available to oversee a safety program revolving around the handling, transport and use of high-level dangerous and exotic chemicals that may produce what are called aerosol infections.
Quadrant 2: Low Hazard/Low Control
Similar to Quadrant 1, this situation leads to general support, or at least neutrality. It means there is a level of comfort that the hazard is not significant, but the safety controls exist but are not burdensome. It is easy for workers to comply with the controls and not feel at risk.
One example of this quadrant might be a worker in the field with his or her typical precautions, wearing the right PPE, protection from heat and/or the elements, and protection from any animals that may be in the area of work. This is routine safety controls to cover for things that may happen but are not expected to be common or fatal.
Quadrant 3: Low Hazard/High Control
This is the quadrant where you may find workers being annoyed or complaining to safety professionals that there is a little too much control with a particular hazard, of which workers don’t think of much risk.
One example might be requiring workers to hold the railing when walking up stairs, then having cameras record when there is non-compliance, and then enforcing the violations. Yes, that could be considered excessive control of a minor hazard .
Quadrant 4: High Hazard/Low Control
The opposite end of the spectrum from annoyance and frustration is the quadrant where an all-uout mutiny may arise among your workforce. This is where workers are fearful for their very lives beause they see safety controls as being wholly inadequate to make them feel safe. They think that the company is not putting safety first and the workers don’t want to get paid to work to death, literally.
From this quadrant, consider a situation where an office is overrun by toxic mold, and the company shows indifference toward rectifying it and several workers die from complications related to the mold.
Now that you have an idea about the quadrants and how they look in a real-life situation, you can be better prepared for assessing and addressing the issues that you find in your workplace. But what about those projects that seem to have a mix of potential hazards that vary from low to high? How do you concentrate your resources?
We’ll address that Friday, along with a discussion about how to bring these varying perceptions of risk and hazards into a common range. This is where Ivansky’s article gets to the heart – understanding the differing perceptions of risks and hazards and bringing them all together to find that balance that promotes safety and success in the workforce.