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PRA Risk factors
Common risk factors associated with behavioral and physical risks.

Identifying hazards, risks, forming solutions key to developing a zero-incidents safety culture

KAIZEN is a core value for Toyota.

The Japanese word for improvement represents the company’s quest for continuous advancement through incremental changes in processes that lead to improved efficiency, quality—and profitability.

It’s also known as Process Risk Assessment (PRA) at the local tank wash.

Travis O’Banion, Quala’s vice-president of environmental health and safety, spoke about the importance of PRAs in developing a safety culture in the Safety Focus: Creating a Process Risk Assessment session at the National Tank Truck Carriers Safety & Security Council meeting in Reno, Nevada.

“I took a lot of different approaches to job safety analysis and process risk assessments and boiled it down as simply as I could, really trying to target our industries, so our employees, terminal managers, ops and (regional) VPs can get their heads around it and take the leadership role on this,” O’Banion said.

Safety culture

A company’s culture, put simply, is “the way we do things around here.”

A safety culture evolves from the approach said company—at every level of the organization—takes to accomplishing each task.

“(It’s) a set of core values and behaviors that emphasize safety as the overriding priority,” O’Banion said.

A traditional safety culture model, O’Banion said, relies on rules written at the top, then shoved down through an organization, whose lowest-level employees are expected to comply, not question.

The less traditional, PRA-based approach seeks to align management’s safety values with workers’ experience.

The desired result is a world-class safety culture embraced by every employee.

“That’s getting to the point where your employees are not dependent on an EHS specialist or their manager,” O’Banion said.

“They’re dependent on each other.”

The key to a forward-looking approach to safety—and a sincere commitment to zero incidents—is to look at leading indicators, instead of lagging ones like Total Recordable Incident Rate (TRIR) numbers.

Those are great, but they’re not always helpful.

“You’ve got $1,000 to bet on an NFL team,” O’Banion said. “Are you going to take a look at their results last year? ‘Well, they won the Super Bowl last year, I’m putting them down.’ Or are you going to look at, ‘Who’d they trade for, who’s hurt, who’s injured, who didn’t negotiate their salary, who changed coaches, what’s their schedule like,’ and then take that analysis and put your $1,000 on that team?”

PRA basics

Before undertaking a PRA, it’s important to understand the basics.

A hazard is a source of danger, like a lift truck or wash rack, an outcome is a potential consequence, as in injury or property damage, a risk is the expected loss from a hazard based on probability of occurrence and magnitude of consequences, and a risk factor is anything influencing risk.

Typical risk factors for a tank wash include the tanker condition, uneven floor surfaces, lighting, debris on the floor, the knowledge, skill and experience of the operator, and available operating space.

“What I say to my terminal managers is, ‘What keeps you up at night? What worries you with what your employees are doing, what do they do often and what has the most potential for severity of injury?’” O’Banion said.

“That’s your top priority.”

Risk factors that cause accidents fall into two categories—behaviors and conditions.

Behaviors, or unsafe acts, such as driver error or inadequate training, account for 80% to 95% of work-related injuries, according to industry-wide statistics, and unsafe conditions, like defective equipment cause 5 to 20% of injuries—yet receive the most attention.

O’Banion calls this the 80-20 rule.

“We’re spending 80% of our time concerned about conditions, and only 20% worrying about what this employee is going through,” he said. “What are they dealing with? What have they been trained to do? That’s an afterthought for most of us, and one of the most difficult things to get engaged in.”

Solutions oriented

Why should companies use PRAs to address these hazards and risks?

Because it’s easy to identify problems after an accident, and thorough review, but much harder to see them before someone’s hurt.

“The real trick is identifying that task, going in and talking about the outcomes that could happen, identifying those risk factors and then getting rid of the risks,” O’Banion said. “Provide the solution.”

That’s where the PRA comes in.

The process involves breaking a job down into smaller tasks or sequential steps, identifying outcomes of each task, recognizing the risk factors for each outcome, then developing a solution for each risk factor.

Hazardous tasks include bending, carrying, pushing and pulling, behavioral risk factors include failure to follow process and unsafe position, and physical risk factors include elevation and excessive heat.

O’Banion suggests watching the job, breaking it down, and taking notes and pictures to understand what’s happening, then developing potential outcomes, including types of injuries or property damage.

“It’s so simple, it’s complicated,” he said.

Once the hazards, risks and risk factors are identified, it’s time to develop solutions.

Traditional solutions include engineered and administrative controls, and personal protective equipment. Out-of-the-box fixes include eliminating an activity or separating the people from the hazard.

“Why not change the process altogether?” O’Banion said.

“Tank cleaners, mechanics and loaders don’t want to hurt themselves. They really don’t. And when they see the commitment from talking about the culture, and they start to gain the momentum, they’re going to take off.”

Kaizen approach

The hierarchy of risk controls includes avoidance, substitution, isolation, reduction and protection.

O’Banion suggested using a matrix to prioritize risks.

He also recommends a one-hour “Kaizen” approach—an hour of observation, an hour of discussion, and one hour spent either implementing easy solutions or developing plans for the bigger problems.

“What we try to do is find a couple of really easy solutions, so employees begin to get engaged, (and) the cleaning techs begin to get engaged,” O’Banion said. “‘I am fixing something and they’re listening to me, and we’re making a change, and we’re going to do something a little bit differently.’

“And then you’ll have the solutions that require capital, that are going to take some time, that you have to identify and prioritize.”    

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