Ensuring Heath And Safety

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Ensuring Heath and Safety

Ensuring Heath and Safety


Risk assessments approaches in health and social care environments

The risk assessment is to estimate the likelihood of adverse events and the amount of probable losses. The losses in this case are understood not only as material losses, but mainly as losses associated with the loss of life or health. Risk assessment is a set of formal processes to estimate the likelihood of danger associated with hazards. Typically, the process is divided into four steps: (1) hazard identification, (2) dose-response assessment, (3) exposure assessment, and (4) risk characterization (Stender, 2002, pp. 34-39).

Hazard Identification

Is a substance or activity a hazard? Information comes from laboratory experiments that use bacteria, mice, rats, and other specially bred species to test biological, chemical, or physical hazards and activities for their toxicity, mutagenicity, car-cinogenicity, and other undesirable effects. Data also come from observing the consequences of human exposures. Both laboratory tests and human studies are valuable, but there are instances where they have not worked.

Dose-Response assessment

This second stage evaluates the amount of exposure that produces a harmful effect. Dose-response assessment is essential because harmful effects are detected at high doses. Most human carcinogens, for example, were detected in a workplace where employees were exposed for many years to high doses. Animal tests in laboratories are expensive, and hence, the number of animals tested may be limited; and the doses are high and enhanced by solvents that increase the chance of producing a cancer. If a chemical, biological, or physical agent is dangerous at high exposure levels, is the same agent dangerous at a low exposure? Risk assessors look for exposure levels where a substance is not a danger or for the so-called no observed adverse effect level, or NOAEL (Sexton, 1999, pp. 31-38).

Exposure Assessment

Exposure assessment evaluates how hazards reach and injure people and the environment. Sometimes, as in the case of vehicle crashes, the exposure pathway and the cause of damage are apparent (e.g., blunt force, explosion, fire, smoke). But the vast majority of hazards impose risk by more subtle pathways—by discharging hazardous substances into the air, land, and water. The process of learning how hazardous chemical, biological, and physical, agents move through these media is called “fate and transport.” Fate and transport may be simple; for example, if a worker spills a strong pesticide or solvent and then tries to wipe up the contamination without gloves, she or he may develop a skin rash (Schiavo, 2007, pp. 121-128).

The next part of exposure assessment is understanding how the hazard enters the body. This is accomplished by examining its properties in the environment and determining whether the exposure will be through the skin, inhalation, ingestion, or multiple routes. Route of exposure assessments are critical because some substances are much more dangerous through one route of exposure than through others. For example, mustard gas (a chemical warfare agent) can be harmful to the skin but can be fatal if inhaled, which is why gas masks are required for individuals ...
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