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Actively targeting trouble spots for potential risks and hazards in the workplace is the most effective way to be prepared for an incident. All businesses are required to adhere to proper WHS requirements and, for the safety benefits they reap, it would be foolish to ignore them.

Concentration can slide in the workplace. It’s essential that you establish safeguards and procedures to protect your staff, yourself, and your business. Hazards can range from mild property damage, to serious and costly harm, and even fatalities. This guide will demonstrate that there are a number of effective ways to eliminate risk factors in your workplace.

These are the main requirements you should consider when assessing your risk and hazard management.

Communication and consultation plans

Risk and hazard management should be an active collaboration between internal and external stakeholders at each step of the process. By approaching it with a focus on consultation rather than a one way flow of communication, a mutual understanding is established.

Stakeholder involvement at all levels is critical for ensuring a safe workplace. A Communication and Consultation Plan for stakeholders should always be developed at the earliest stage of the risk management process. The scope and sensitivity of the plan should be proportionate to the risk and must identify:

  • Issues relating to the danger itself and the process to manage it
  • Who is responsible for implementing proper procedures
  • Parties that will be affected
  • The basis on which decisions are made and why particular actions are required

How to identify a hazard

A workplace hazard is generally identified by:

  • Audits and inspections, including specialist inspections
  • Specific reviews (for example noise, air quality, or machine guarding)
  • Review of Incident Reports
  • Issues identified and raised by staff.

A Corrective Action/Non-conformance Report should be completed for each identified hazard.

How to conduct a risk assessment

An assessment should be carried out on all identified hazards and form an integral part of a thorough occupational health and safety management plan. The aim of the assessment is to remove a hazard or reduce the level of its danger by adding precautions or control measures as necessary. It should successfully evaluate the likelihood, consequence and exposure to the hazard and taking these into account, determine whether it constitutes an acceptable risk.

In determining what is (or was at a particular time) reasonably practicable in relation to ensuring health and safety, you should consider approaching the risk with the following in mind:

  • Likelihood of it eventuating
  • Degree of harm that would result if it eventuated
  • Factors a person concerned knows (or ought reasonably to know) about the situation, and any ways of eliminating or reducing the likelihood of an occurrence
  • Availability and suitability of effective workplace methods to eliminate danger; and
  • The costs of eliminating or reducing the hazard

An assessment should be carried out prior to any modifications in the workplace to ensure the changes do not introduce any new dangers. Introduction of new plant and equipment, materials, new processes, work practices or changes in any of these factors will require a new assessment.

Where it is necessary to compare different types of risks (for example high severity/low frequency vs. low severity/high frequency) a Quantitative Risk Assessment (QRA) is needed, which normally requires the assistance of a specialist.

If the potential liabilities are determined to be above an acceptable level, hazard control measures should be implemented to ensure that they are eliminated or reduced to a safe level.

When conducting an assessment associated with plant and machinery, the following should be considered:

  • Design and construction
  • Positioning of plant in the workplace
  • Operation
  • Damaged plant
  • Dismantled/stored plant
  • Plant with moving parts
  • Auditing
  • Inspection
  • Servicing
  • Maintenance
  • Repair
  • Modification
  • Cleaning
  • Disengaged/stored plant
  • Transporting plant
  • Lighting
  • Ventilation
  • Wear, corrosion and damage
  • Providing information
  • Safe work practices and
  • Records

Hierarchy of Controls

A Hierarchy of Controls is a sequence of options, which offer you a number of ways to approach the hazard control process. The best practice is to:

  • Eliminate the risk
  • Isolate the hazard
  • Substitute it for a safer option
  • Engineer a safer environment by using protective mechanisms and equipment
  • Administrative controls
  • Use personal protective equipment (PPE) such as gloves or goggles.

Review your control measures

It’s important to consider whether implementation of proposed control measures could potentially introduce new dangerous uncertainties, even seemingly unrelated ones. For example, provision of rigid footwear to prevent foot injuries may increase slips and falls on slippery surfaces; the installation of barriers and guards on machinery may restrict access and means of escape, etc.

Review your risk assessments

You should review your risk assessments, and any measures adopted to control the exposure, whenever:

  • There is evidence that the assessment is no longer valid, or
  • Injury or illness results from exposure to a hazard to which the assessment relates; and
  • There is a significant change in the premises or place of work to which the assessment relates.

Where required, new, modified or additional control measures should be implemented.

General advice warning

The information on this site is of a general nature only. It does not take your specific needs or circumstances into consideration. You should look at your own situation and requirements before making any decisions.

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