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Hazard Assessments

Hazard Assessment

The purpose of a hazard assessment is to evaluate the work environment or process to determine if there is a hazard. If a hazard is discovered, then the assessment also helps to determine the best way to protect an employee from injury or illness.

Under the General Duty Clause {5(a)(1)} of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and Virginia’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (VOSH), it is required that:

“Each employer shall furnish to each of his employees employment and a place of employment which are free from recognized hazards that are causing or are likely to cause death or serious physical harm to his employees.”

Agencies can use hazard assessments as a tool to help determine the hazards associated with the tasks performed by employees. Hazard assessments, sometimes called a hazard analysis, safety audit, job safety analysis, or job hazard analysis, evaluate dangerous or potentially dangerous situations to determine if corrections can be made or how to protect employees from the situation or process.

OSHA/VOSH requires in 29 CFR 1910.132(d)(1) that the workplace be evaluated to determine the hazards present and what types of personal protective equipment (PPE) is required to protect employees against those hazards. Additionally, OSHA/VOSH requires in 29 CFR 1910.132(d)(2) that the evaluation be documented in writing. This documentation should include the workplace evaluated, the person certifying the evaluation has been conducted and the date the hazard assessment was performed. OSHA/VOSH requires that this document be identified as a “certification of hazard assessment.” There are other OSHA/VOSH standards. Respiratory Protection and Hearing Conservation, as examples, require an “assessment” as part of the regulation.

Hazard, as defined by Webster’s Dictionary, is a possible source of danger; the potential to cause harm; a possibility of incurring loss or misfortune; an obstacle and a chance of being injured or harmed. Hazards fall into three major categories: physical hazards, environmental hazards and health hazards. Physical hazards can be defined as moving objects, temperature extremes, lighting, and sharp edges. Examples of environmental hazards include lightning, wind, rain, and snow. Health hazards can be defined as exposure above the allowable limits to dusts, chemicals, and radiation.

Hazards can be grouped into basic categories that include:

  • Impact (falling objects)
  • Penetration
  • Compression (roll-over or pinching)
  • Chemical exposure (inhalation, ingestion, injection, or skin contact)
  • Temperature extremes (heat/cold)
  • Respiratory (harmful dust)
  • Radiation
  • Noise
  • Vibration
  • Electrical
  • Light (optical) radiation (welding, cutting, brazing).1

When looking for additional sources of hazards, remember to evaluate the workplace for:

  • Electrical hazards
  • The layout of work area
  • Presence of sharp objects or edges
  • Stacked or stored objects that could fall or roll
  • Types of chemical exposures
  • Sources of harmful dusts
  • Moving parts or machinery or equipment
  • Temperature extremes
  • Sources of light radiation. 2

Remember that the circumstances that cause hazards can change from day to day. It is essential that monitoring of the work environment take place on a frequent basis to help reduce or eliminate the hazards that cause injuries.

Agencies often view hazard assessments as a time-consuming task that does not provide immediate benefit. However, there are several assessment tools already in place that agencies can use to help conduct a thorough hazard assessment. Executive Order 52(99) states that agencies should develop, maintain, and monitor strategies to minimize the risk of work-related injuries and illnesses. Some of those strategies may include:

  • Accident/incident investigations
  • Routine inspections/audits of the facilities
  • Internal accident databases.

Other resources that are available to agencies are:

  • OSHA/VOSH logs
  • Workers’ Compensation data
  • Material Safety Data Sheets
  • Safety committees
  • Employee observation
  • Best practices for your agency’s functions.

Hazard assessments are a regulatory requirement for some standards. However, they are really a best practice that can help to reduce or eliminate the potential of injuries and illnesses. Most agencies have some of the assessment tools in place. These tools in combination with a formal hazard assessment can reduce the frequency and severity of accidents by identifying a hazard before the injury occurs.

The Office of Workers’ Compensation has resources, such as a formal training program and video lending library to help assist agencies with this topic. For more information, please contact Kristie McClaren at 804-786-0362 or via email at

A good resource that is free to state agencies is located on the Federal OSHA webpage. It is an electronic tool (eTool) that guides the user through various scenarios and helps the user identify hazards. It can be found at the following links:

OSHA Hazard Awareness Advisor:

Virginia Tech Evaluation Assessment of Hazards:

1 U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Safety and Health Administration. “Personal Protective Equipment.” Viewed May 5, 2005, at

2 Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (Virginia Tech), Environmental, Health and Safety Services. “Assessment Evaluation of Hazards.” Viewed May 5, 2005, at


Masdorf, Zack. (1999). A simple risk analysis can help you determine where – and what – personal protective equipment should be used. Viewed May 10, 2005 from Occupational Hazards.

U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Safety and Health Administration. “Safety and Health Program Management: Fact Sheet – Worksite Analysis.” Viewed February 25, 2005, at

U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Safety and Health Administration. “Oil and Gas Well Drilling and Servicing eTool: Job Safety Analysis Process.” Viewed February 25, 2005, at

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