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The Pitfalls of Paper: A Slippery Slope

Tue, 12/18/2018

JSA, FLHA, LMRA, TRA - the list goes on. At one point or another, we've all likely heard or seen these acronyms that all have a common derivative: hazard assessment. 

Organizations perform hazard assessments every day, multiple times per day, to ensure that the work and tasks being performed are adequately controlled to eliminate or mitigate hazards.

These assessments are often the differentiator between an incident and returning home safe to loved ones. Given the impact of hazard assessments on workplace health and safety, they should follow strict, non-negotiable criteria to be most effective:

  1. They must be complete - all applicable fields must be filled, accurate and adequately detailed to ensure awareness, communication and safety.
  2. They must be legible - everyone in the organization who is involved or required to view the assessment must be able to understand it.
  3. They must be existent - they actually need to be done and once they are, adequately managed (e.g. forwarded, secured, stored) for review and future reference.

Near the close of 2018, the vast majority are still done on paper. When many jobs and work tasks that have potential or actual hazards associated with them are directly involved in creating new technologies or building upon current tech to improve our society, our organization or our lives, why is the method by which these rely to be done safely and efficiently, a centuries-old technology? This is not to say that paper does not have its place in today's society, however, when the pitfalls of paper directly affect safety, it may be time to consider a better way forward.

  1. Complacency, time constraints or lack of awareness can lead to incomplete, poor assessment. Hazards and proper controls may be overlooked. Safety is compromised.
  2. Handwriting is often illegible, ink becomes smudged, paper is fragile. Communication suffers. Safety is compromised.
  3. Paper is easily lost or damaged. Some neglect the process altogether. No matter the reason, the absence of completed documentation presents both safety and corporate risk exposure.

Which of the below do you believe would be safer, more communicable and apt to protect liability?