At the recent ASSE Professional Development Conference, there was considerable focus on risk assessment, voluntary standards and prevention through design. The primary reason to become familiar with ANSI B11 is that it guides risk assessment.
Risk assessment is one of the most powerful safety tools we have. Without it, you are left to the old debate of “Yes we have a hazard – what do we do about it?” Risk assessment, or RA for short, will guide you in the application of feasible risk reduction controls. Importantly, RA (especially Task Based Risk Assessment) is a powerful offensive and defensive tool to ward off potential OSHA citations.
When you become proficient in RA (like everything in life, it takes a little practice), you will note many missed opportunities where risk could have been reduced during concept and design of the machine or equipment. The challenge for our profession is to get risk assessment integrated into the curricula of future engineers. If enough safety professionals are using risk assessment, perhaps we can influence ABET (Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology) and academia to similarly adopt the method for educating engineers.
Remember that the goal of risk assessment is to achieve feasible risk reduction. That which might have been readily feasible during design is often no longer feasible after something is built. It is like putting on an addition to a house — a missing electrical outlet that would have cost a couple of bucks during construction is now a costly retrofit.
The B11 family provides tangible guidance for both engineers and safety pros to put a machine into operation with “acceptable risk.” Acceptable risk is not zero risk. It is defined as “A risk level achieved after risk reduction measures have been applied. It is a risk level that is accepted for a given task (hazardous situation) or hazard.”
I have written about B11 previously. If there is sufficient interest, we might consider a coordinated series of blogs that explore all of these concepts in more detail. Are you ready to unlock the “best kept secret” in safety? Let us know if you would like more detail on how the standards can help you reduce risk in your workplace.