Organizations typically assess risk and plan for safety at the project and field levels. The first shot at recognizing potential hazards occurs during the project or general planning phase for every job and task. The initial planning may occur in a project manager's or engineer's office when the project is conceived and developed. This level also may include the planner making some observations in the field.

The second shot at recognizing hazards typically comes during the preparation of the formal paperwork that assists in identifying hazards. This typically happens at the field level and may include preparing the work permit, hot work permit, the lift plan, the job hazard analysis, the prejob hazard analysis and a variety of other hazard identification tools.

However, there must be a third layer because work conditions change, new people are introduced, weather conditions change or the planner may overlook hazards or misjudge how the work should be performed (Coble 3). This third level is the task level planning. Many companies are missing this step, which I refer to as the last line of defense. The last minute risk assessment (LMRA) provides the critical last level of review necessary to address any hazards that have been realized since the project and field planning phases. The LMRA is designed to be a final review of the task at hand. It provides employee's a last chance to review their work plan and work area for any conditions that may have changed from the previous project and field level assessments that may affect their safety and the safety of those working around them. Although it is a final review, it may need to be repeated multiple times during the duration of a task if conditions are changing.

What Did We Miss?

The companies I have worked for were no different than other companies when it comes to how we assessed our work tasks and work environment. The main focus was on project level and field level risk assessments. The project planning involved how many employees were needed for the job, what PPE was needed for the planned work, and what type and size equipment would be needed to perform the work and perform it safely.

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