What is a hazard assessment?

Hazard assessment is a process that we all follow intuitively to achieve our goals at work and at home. We do it so often that for many of us it has become a subconscious process. Our experience in life and work has given us a solid respect for those things that can hurt us. We know to obey the speed limit and wear our seat belts. We follow the other rules of the road to get to our destination quickly and safely. Hazard assessment, for many of us, is that mental checklist that runs through our heads at the beginning of the day or when we start a new task.


In the context of our research, learning, and operational activities here at the university, hazard assessment has to be a more intentional process. We seek “to inspire the human spirit through outstanding achievements in learning, discovery, and citizenship.” The hazards involved in these endeavours may not be familiar to us and intuition is less instructive in identifying them. Hazard assessment takes that intuitive process and slows it down a bit -- applying a formal process to identify hazards and strategies to control them.


From an environment, health, and safety perspective hazard assessments are a key aspect of work planning for faculty members and supervisors; they are a university requirement (EHS Policy Appendix B Environment Health and Safety Responsibilities); and in Alberta they are required by law (Alberta Occupational Health and Safety Code, Part 2).

What does a hazard assessment look like?

A hazard assessment must be in writing and --  in its final form -- shared with workers and others impacted by the work. It can be created on a blank piece of paper, or using a template or electronic form.


Recently, the university has worked with a number of partner organizations to create an online, web based application, called the Hazard Assessment Web App. The app will guide you through the process of hazard assessment and help you to identify your hazards, assess the risks, and assign appropriate control measures. It also acts as an electronic file storage facility and allows you to download a pdf report of the hazard assessment that can be printed or emailed to colleagues.

Who should do a hazard assessment?

The best people to do a hazard assessment are those involved in the work. Normally it is led by a supervisor and done in consultation with workers. Here at the university, faculty members and supervisors are charged with this responsibility.

When should a hazard assessment be done?

Hazard assessment should be done before the beginning of work, when something new is being introduced, when a change occurs, or when a significant alteration to a worksite occurs. They should also be reviewed at regular intervals to ensure that they are up to date.


More than likely, you’re already busy and wonder how best to get this done. A good place to start is with those activities that you believe would cause the worst consequences for your workers. This gives you the opportunity to address higher risk items and put controls in place to ensure that the serious consequence does not occur. Keep working down the list of activities until you are done. Try not to get too detailed as you don’t want to be spending all of your time doing hazard assessments versus achieving the results that you’re here to accomplish.

How can I get access to the Hazard Assessment Web App?

Go to the EHS Webpage on Hazard Assessment and find the name and contact info for your Faculty/Portfolio Administrator. Let them know that you’d like to use the app and they will have an invite sent from eCompliance, the platform provider of the application. You will then get an email from eCompliance inviting you to select a password and input your phone number. You will then be able to login to the app by clicking the LOGIN button on the upper right of the main eCompliance website (www.ecompliance.com).


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What are some other resources that I can access to learn more about hazard assessments?

Some initial information is located on the EHS website. EHS is also developing a series of eLearning programs with modules related to hazard assessment, notably the Supervisory EHS Professional Development Program (available in the beginning of Q4 2017) and in an update to the Laboratory and Chemical Safety courses. These programs will reference the use of the Hazard Assessment Web App. Over time more and more of the eLearning offerings from EHS will incorporate this approach to hazard assessment.


There are also a number of in-App demo’s that will help you get started with the Hazard Assessment Web App. Be sure to select “Show Me How.”


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You can also contact EHS through Ask EHS or via email at ehs.info@ualberta.ca for additional assistance.