Risk Assessment in Precast Operational Safety

Construction is risky business when it comes to safety, among other factors – the precast industry is no exception. Thankfully, in North America, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) gives very strong guidance when it comes to managing operational safety in the concrete manufacturing industry. Other associations such as the National Precast Concrete Association (NPCA) and Precast / Prestressed Concrete Industry (PCI) are also committed to providing resources to help precast plants establish a strong safety culture and maintain a safe work environment.

Because of the scale and risks associated with precast manufacturing, the hazards posed to workers are potentially severe. Therefore, whenever developing a plant safety management plan, risk assessment is a crucial first step.


Risk Assessment 101

Step 1: Set Up a Multidisciplinary Task Force

Because safety is everybody’s business, all levels of the organization from the C-Level to the plant floor should be involved in risk assessment. This promotes communication and general understanding between all parties, and cohesive collaboration in development of the safety protocol generally results in increased buy-in at all levels.


Step 2: Identify Hazards

Begin by setting up a plant tour during normal working hours in the active working environment with all task force members to identify dangers and risks. In addition, a thorough assessment should also include:

  1. Consultation with workers
  2. Consulting with industry associations and governments
  3. Consulting specialist practitioners
  4. Past incident records

Pro tip: Do you know the 10 most frequently
cited safety violations according to OSHA?

  1. Hazard communication
  2. Lockout/Tagout
  3. Confined Spaces
  4. Respiratory protection
  5. Guarding floor & wall openings and holes
  6. Electrical wiring methods
  7. Noise exposure
  8. Forklifts
  9. Electrical systems design
  10. Machine guarding

Once a complete understanding is reached, set aside a round-table forum to compare notes on what hazards are apparent.

Step 3: Determine Severity and Likelihood of Risks

Total risk is defined as the product of two factors:

  1. Severity of hazard
  2. Likelihood of occurrence of hazard

Severity of Hazard is the potential extent of injury or harm caused by accidents/incidents arising from hazards. For simplicity, severity can be classified in to 3 categories, Minor (1), Moderate (2), Major (3).

Likelihood of occurrence of hazard (an accident, incident or ill health). These are classified into 3 categories; Remote (1), Occasional (2) and Frequent (3)

Total Risk = Product of Severity and Likelihood values

Therefore, total risk can range from 1 (low) to 9 (extreme) with 1-3 being low to moderate, 4-6 moderate to severe and 7-9 severe to extreme.

Once total risk values are calculated for all risks identified, the task force can move on to Step 4.

Step 4: Planning of the Safety Management Plan

The control of hazards and reduction of risks can be accomplished by following hierarchy of control measures as shown in the figure below. These control measures are not usually mutually exclusive. e.g. Engineering controls can be implemented together with administrative controls like training and safe work procedures (SWP’s).

For precast operations, an excellent resource when planning for safety management is the following link: https://www.osha.gov/Publications/concrete_manufacturing.html

Also, NPCA recently published a series of educational videos which can serve as a helpful reference: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL2iDpO3EO42pYDjEgVdCX3cPpgA-DklAj

Pro Tip: Documentation is key! For the plan to be effective, a system must be in place to record key data related to plant safety. This will allow the Plant Safety Manager to effectively monitor and control the safety management plan. Workers should have an easy way of reporting on concerns and near misses in addition to accidents and injuries, so that the plan can be pro-active in mitigating incidents.

Once the safety management plan is drafted, it should be reviewed by the relevant local safety authority, usually OSHA but other associations like NPCA and PCI can provide guidance as well.


Step 5: Implementation as a Process

Plant safety is a cultural force in the work place that must be integrated at every level of the business and is therefore no small task. This is common across many industries, and the first step is transparency in educating the workforce on the hazards present in their workplace and consequences of non-compliance with the SWP’s in the safety management plan.

Safety is not instinctive or in some cases, intuitive and therefore implementation should be thought of as a continuous process rather than a one-time effort. A system must be in place to train and re-train workers but also to illicit feedback so that the plan can benefit from continuous improvement, therefore improving the odds of success.

Do you have any tips to share with us on plant safety/risk assessment? If so we’d love to hear from you! You can submit your comments to: info@ultraspan.ca