There are many ways to report a hazard but we a looking for the most effective methods. So lets start with the fastest.
A verbal report to your supervisor. Following your normal path of communication, you simply tell your supervisor of the issue.
The next would be procedural reporting. Traditionally a slip of paper with some rudimentary questions, and some text from the hazard reporter. These go by several different names such as Hazobs, Take 5, RiskOb SafetyObs, etc. Often these are handed in at the end of a shift.
Perhaps you are uncomfortable with reporting a hazard verbally to your supervisor, so the next option would be to report it to a trusted colleague. This should be your HSR (Health and Safety Representative). They are trained in matters of safety and are generally able to liaise with management to resolve safety issues.
Moving forward you can always contact your union representative or organiser. Again, this would be generally by word of mouth either directly or via phone.
And of course, there is your regulatory authority. Depending on where you are WorkSafe or SafeWork. These agencies can issue fines, discontinuation notices, investigate and prosecute. They have hotlines you can call to report hazards or non-compliance, mobile reporting apps and email addresses specifically for hazard reporting.
Above we have five different channels of communication to report hazards. While the first one is the fastest it not necessarily the most effective. Supervisor have many facets to manage, Safety, Environment, Quality, Schedule, Procurement and Budget just to name a few. So, lets tell the our supervisor about the broken handrail on the loading dock. As the supervisor attempts to deal with issue he takes a call regarding a delivery then bumps into his manager who wants to discuss last month’s stocktake and an employee wants to know why they pay was short by two hours. Handrail, what handrail!!! The supervisor is forced to prioritise his workload and unfortunately our handrail fell off the urgent list without him even realising. The other consideration is there is no record of the hazard or repair.
So, with the same scenario lets look at our net option. The paper slip. Somewhat slower in delivering the message as the hazard was noticed at 10:00am when the Hazob was written but didn’t get handed in until 4:00pm at the end of the shift. Although there is a lag between identify the hazard and reporting, it is effective. Studies show if a report is made on paper will be acting on with priority by a supervisor. A supervisor with a written report feels compelled to act and exposed if they don’t. This has the added advantage of a documented record. Somewhat difficult to search for but a record none the less.
Our next option was report to your HSR. The issue with this is it places another link in the chain, as the HSR must receive the information then relay to the supervisor. It is more effective than telling the supervisor direct as the HSR is a safety professional and has more and his report has authority and therefore stays on the priority list. As a safety professional it is assumed the HSR will document both the hazard and the action taken.
Now the last two, the regulatory authority and the union really are very effective, however they are both external to your organisation and are therefore slow to attend. They can both have a dramatic effect on productivity particularly when the issue could have been dealt with using one of the other options. In saying that, in extreme cases of safety deficiency or when other efforts have been ignored it may be your only option.
There is another option. Digital tools such as SiteSafe360. This puts the best of all the option in play. Immediate reporting in a written format. Escalation of reports if a supervisor can’t or won’t open his reports. There are other benefits of digital reporting such as reports that are readily searchable by any number of parameters, data collection and detailed analytics where you can see at a glance where you need to focus your attention to prevent incidents and put your organisation on a continuous improvement trajectory.