You may ask, "Why in the world will I need to consider Risk Assessment?" And others may say, "I know the hazards, the protective measures and the methods to get the fixes accomplished, so why must I do risk assessment?" Equipment, processes, products, and the protective measures are becoming increasingly complex and there are new challenges every day; therefore, it cannot always be done with "a priori" or "by the seat of the pants" knowledge.
PREVENTION is the name of the game! Can you and your credibility afford to participate without utilizing all the tools available to assure operations reach an acceptable/tolerable level of risk? Let's talk a little about the world in which we operate.
Have you ever had the feeling your job world was spinning and you were hanging on instead of being the one controlling the spin? Companies are restructuring, being re-engineered and downsized, products are changing, management and employees have lost their loyalty to each other, and there is an ever-increasing rate of employee turnover. Not only does computer hardware require replacement every couple years but software and its capability is changing equally rapidly.
There are waves of mergers and bankruptcies, and for good measure throw in the fact that business today does not determine its future without outside influence, namely form the financial wizards on Wall Street. They tell companies what profits are expected and if a company does not produce they hold the stock hostage with poor reports. It really is a miracle that we have the group of dedicated individuals in this Profession who continue to strive to keep a focus on the safety and well being of the worker. Congratulations survivors!
It would be nice if we all were blessed with CEO's like Paul O'Neill (current Secretary of the Treasury) who formerly headed ALCOA. According to Business Week magazine (February 5, 2001), "(He) didn't hold his troops to criteria that CEO's commonly use, such as profit margins, sales growth rates, or share appreciation. His singular standard: time lost to employee injuries to be a world class company, it had to first become the safest.' He's doing it again in the Treasury Department. Perhaps this is the opportunity for you to bring innovation into your organization and distinguish yourself as a leader.
It is important to recognize that risk assessment is a key element in the application of the concepts of safety through design. The Institute for Safety Through Design, an initiative of the National Safety Council, has a Vision "Safety, health and environmental considerations are integrated into the design and development of systems meant for human use" and a Mission "To reduce the risk of injury, illness and environmental damage by integrating decisions affecting safety, health and the environment in all stages of the design process."