In our industry, a potentially hazardous environment is defined as a location in which the surrounding atmosphere could or does contain sufficient concentrations of potentially explosive vapours or gases. So, how can you safely carry out a risk assessment to ensure that these potential hazards don’t arise? Let’s talk you through it…
As part of our recent e-book entitled ‘The Regulations Governing the Use of Non-Certified Instruments Within the Oil, Gas & Petrochemical Industries‘, we explored hazardous area classification, the main regulations within this sector and how to properly train employees and ply them with the relevant information they need to work within a hazardous area. From this, we have taken a snapshot of one of the main preventatives of injury within a potential hazardous area; risk assessment.
What is risk assessment?
The purpose of the risk assessment is to provide an employer with the information required to eradicate or reduce hazards that could potentially harm workers. By carefully examining and identifying the dangerous substances present in the workplace; the work activities that involve the use of these substances; and their particular characteristics, an employer is able to protect both workers and the public as much as possible from potential explosions, fires or other incidents leading to damage to their facility or worse, injury to employees and members of the public.
The four key points to consider when carrying out a risk assessment are:
- The specific hazardous properties of the substances.
- How the substances are used and stored.
- The likelihood of a potentially explosive atmospheres occurring.
- What potential ignition sources are/would be present.
Risk assessments should be carried out irrespective of the amount of potentially explosive material present, this is good practice as it allows employers to evaluate the effectiveness of existing safety measures and whether additional precautions should be implemented. Specific attention should be given to any work activities which are not always routine, for example maintenance work. There can be a greater chance of incidents happening during maintenance related activities due to their sometimes unscheduled nature.
Risk assessments should be reviewed regularly and additional assessments should be carried out before the introduction of new hazardous substances or any alterations or extensions to existing facilities.
What training should there be?
Employers are required to issue suitable training and relevant information to workers and any other personnel with access to potentially hazardous areas. This will mainly highlight how to conduct themselves along with other necessary actions required to safeguard themselves and others, including:
- The name of substances in use and risks they may present.
- Provide access to any relevant material safety data sheets.
- Specific details of legislation that applies to the hazardous properties of those substances.
- Details of the risk assessment.
Training need only be provided to non-workers where it is required to ensure their safety. This would normally included visitors to a facility. When provided to non-workers it should be at a level proportional to the potential risks.
For more information on the regulations that cover the oil, gas and petrochemical industries, including government legislation, how to maintain safe operation of your facilities and equipment, and how to work safely within a potentially hazardous environment; download our e-book here: ‘The Regulations Governing the Use of Non-Certified Instruments Within the Oil, Gas & Petrochemical Industries‘.
Regulations governing the use of non-certified instruments
Want to read about the use of non-certified hand-held instruments within potentially hazardous (explosive) working environments? If you work in the oil, gas or petrochemical fields then this one if for you.