Hazards and Risks
Hazards and risk are NOT the same thing.
A hazard is something with the potential to cause harm. This may include substances, plant, work processes and/or other aspects of the work environment.
Risk is the likelihood that death, injury or illness might result due to the hazard.
Workplace Health and Safety Risk Management Process
Five Basic Steps
There are five basic steps in the workplace health and safety risk management process:
- Identify hazards
- Assess risks that may result because of the hazards
- Decide on control measures to prevent or minimise the level of the risks
- Implement control measures
- Monitor and review the effectiveness of measures
Step 1 – Identify Hazards
What to Look For
There are a number of general types of workplace hazards, including:
- Work environment (such as confined spaces)
- Energy (such as electricity)
- Manual handling
- Substances (such as chemicals)
How To Look For Hazards
A simple way to begin looking for hazards can be by dividing your workplace into logical workplace groupings, such as:
- Tasks (working on the lathe, loading the truck, data processing);
- Locations (offices, grounds, warehouse);
- Roles (electricians, office workers);
- Functions or production processes (administration, cooking, washing, cleaning, receiving, forming, finishing).
There are many other activities that can be undertaken to help with identifying hazards. These include:
- Walking through and inspecting each task or location;
- Consulting with workers. Ask about any problems they have encountered and any near misses and unreported minor injuries;
- Consulting with WH&S reps and workplace health and safety committees;
- How people use equipment and materials;
- How suitable the things used are for the task, and how well they are located.
- And how people could be hurt directly and indirectly by the various workplace aspects;
- Conducting a safety audit;
- Testing, particularly of plant and/or other equipment and noise levels;
- Scientific or technical evaluation;
- Analysing records and data covering, for example, incidents and near misses, worker complaints, sick leave and staff turnover;
- Acquiring information from designers, manufacturers, suppliers, and other organisations, such as unions, employer bodies and health and safety consultancies;
- Environmental and medical monitoring;
- Undertaking working surveys.
After completing Step 1, you may have discovered many hazards at your workplace. You need to assess the risks associated with these hazards. This will be achieved in Step 2 of the risk management process.
Before proceeding to Step 2, however, you should identify the risks associated with each hazard and consider whether any of these risks are:
- Relatively minor, or
- Issues about which there is a regulation, advisory standard or industry code of practice (made under the workplace health and safety act 1995) or guidance material (produced by the division of workplace health and safety).
If any of the risks are relatively minor and/or the hazard can be easily fixed, attend to these straight away.
That is, you may NOT need to work through the assessment method shown in Step 2 before controlling the risk (Step 3). For example, you may be able to relocate a telephone cord that lies across the walkway.
To find out whether there are any regulations, advisory standards, industry codes of practice or guidance material for any of the hazards identified at your workplace, you can:
- Refer to the workplace health and safety regulations (for regulatory information only);
- Access the department of employment, training and industrial relation’s home page (www.dir.qld.gov.au) and then click on health and safety;<NOTE THESE ARE QUEENSLAND CONTACTS – RESEARCH AND LOCATE THE APPROPRIATE CONTACTS FOR YOUR STATE)
- Contact the division of workplace health and safety, publications section free call 1300 369 915;
- Contact your local district office of the division of workplace health and safety;
- Refer to the divisional publication, publications catalogue; and/or
- Consult your union, employer body, professional association and/or health and safety consultancy.
Step 2 – Assess Risk
Step 2 involves assessing the risk associated with the hazards identified in Step 1. As noted earlier, risk is the likelihood that death, injury or illness might result because of the hazard. To assess risk, you need to consider both likelihood and consequences.
The desired outcome of this step is a prioritised list of risk for further action. Various methods can be used to undertake a risk assessment.
For each of the risks:
- Determine the likelihood of an incident occurring at your workplace, bearing in mind existing control measures;
- Determine the consequences of an incident occurring at your workplace, bearing in mind the existing control measures;
- Combine your likelihood and consequence estimates to rate the risk.
- Using the ratings of each risk, develop a prioritised list of workplace risks requiring action.
Use the following descriptive scale to nominate the likelihood of an incident occurring at your workplace.
Could Happen Frequently
Could Happen Occasionally
Could Happen, but Rarely
Could Happen, but Probably never will
The following factors can affect the likelihood of an incident occurring:
- How often the situation occurs.
- How many people are exposed.
- The skills and experience of persons exposed.
- Any special circumstances of the people involved.
- The duration of the exposure.
- The position of the hazard relative to workers and to other hazards.
- Quantities of materials or multiple exposure points involved.
- Environmental conditions.
- Condition of equipment.
The effectiveness of existing control measures
- Do the existing control measures represent good practice
- Are the existing control measures minimising exposure to the risk
- Do workers know about the existing control measures
- Are the existing control measures being used/followed
- Are there adequate systems or procedures in place in relation to the existing control measures
- Is there adequate training and supervision in relation to the existing control measures
- Is there adequate maintenance in relation to the existing control measures:
- How easy is it to use, or work with, the existing control measures
Use the following descriptive scale to nominate the consequences of an incident occurring.
Death, permanent disablement
Serious bodily injury
First aid only, no lost work time
To determine the consequences, you must make a judgement on the severity of the potential outcome. You should review any information gathered during the identification stage, including incident statistics and manufacturer’s data.
Also consider the following factors which can affect the consequences:
- Potential for “chain reaction”
- Concentrations for substances
- Volumes of materials
- Speeds of projectiles and moving parts
- Position of the worker relative to the hazard
- Forces and energy levels.
Step 3 – Decide On Control Measures
Step 3 involves deciding on control measures to manage exposure to identified risks.
Start at the top of the list and work your way down
Firstly, try to eliminate the hazard
If this is not possible, prevent or minimise exposure to the risk by one or a combination of:
- Substituting a less hazardous material, process or equipment
- Redesigning equipment or work processes
- Isolating the hazard
(Note: These measures may include engineering methods).
As a last resort, when exposure to the risk is not (or can not be) minimised by other means:
- Introduce administrative controls
- Use of appropriate personal protective equipment
In many cases, it will be necessary to use more than one control measure to satisfactorily manage exposure to a risk. For example, to minimise exposure to a risk involving a chemical, you could decide to replace the toxic chemical with a less hazardous one, implement safer work procedures and use personal protective equipment.
Some control measures that are lower control priorities may need to be put in place until a permanent measure can be achieved. For example, you may decide that the best way to manage exposure to a risk is to purchase a safer type of machinery with better guarding.
However, it may be some time before the new machine can be delivered and installed, In the interim, it will be necessary to minimise exposure to the risk by doing something, such as increasing supervision, providing specific instruction in safer work procedures and erecting a temporary barrier to minimise dangerous access.
Similarly, it may be necessary to delay implementing a major control measure until your business goes through a “slack” or “off-peak” time so that disruptions are minimised. In such cases, you will need to decide on interim measures to manage exposure to risk.
The control measures selected should:
- adequately control exposure to the risk;
- not create another hazard; and
- allow workers to do their work without undue discomfort or distress.
Eliminate the Hazard
The ideal solution is to get rid of a hazard completely. This is the most effective control and should always be attempted in the first instance. This may mean discontinuing dangerous work practices or removing dangerous substances or equipment. For example, using a machine to do a repetitive manual activity or completely removing asbestos from a workplace.
Prevent or Minimise Exposure To The Risk
If a hazard cannot be eliminated, there are a number of control options that can be used alone, or in combination, to prevent or minimise exposure to the risk.
This involves replacing the hazard with one that presents a lower (and more manageable) risk. For example, a hazardous work practice or substance is replaced with a less hazardous one.
Examples of substitution include:
- Using less dangerous chemicals, such as, substituting a flammable solvent with a water-based solvent or replacing a toxic solvent with a detergent. (it may also be possible to use less of a dangerous substance.);
- Replacing glass with plastic;
- Replacing a pedestal fan with a ceiling fan in a restaurant kitchen;
- Replacing an existing machine with one that has better guarding to make the same product.
This involves changing the design of the workplace, equipment or work process. It involves thinking about ways the work could be done differently to make the workplace safer, such as rearranging aspects of the workplace, modifying equipment, combining tasks, changing procedures to eliminate hazardous steps, changing the sequence of tasks in a job and/or reducing the frequency of performing a dangerous task.
Examples of redesign include:
- Controlling chemicals through improved ventilation;
- Installing lifting equipment to reduce manual handling;
- Fitting a frame to a tractor for rollover protection;
- Modifying exhaust systems to reduce noise
Isolation refers to isolating or separating the hazard from the person, or the person from the hazard.
Examples of isolation include:
- Installing screens or barriers around hazardous areas;
- Enclosing or guarding dangerous equipment;
- Using remote handling equipment for hazardous substances or procedures;
- Installing acoustic booths around noisy equipment.
When Exposure To The Risk Cannot Be Minimised By Other Means
Administration and the use of personal protective equipment are lowest on the list of control priorities.
These controls should NOT be relied on as the primary means of risk control until the options higher in the list of control priorities have been exhausted. These controls require management enforcement and commitment, together with behaviour modification.
They are dependent on appropriate human behaviour to work properly and, therefore, tend to be less effective.
In general, administration and personal protective equipment should only be used:
- When there are no other practical control measures available (that is, as a last resort);
- As temporary measures while a more permanent solution is found; or
- To supplement other controls (that is, as back-up controls).
Administrative Controls involve minimising exposure to a risk through the use of procedures or instruction. It is often necessary to use these controls in conjunction with other measures. For example, if a mechanical device is introduced to reduce manual handling, the Sub-Contractors will also need to be trained how to use it.
Examples of administrative controls include:
- Job rotation to reduce exposure;
- Limited entry or limited time in hazardous areas;
- Adequate supervision;
- Instruction and training in safe work procedures;
- Preventive maintenance and housekeeping procedures;
- Warning signs.
Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) is worn by people as a final barrier between themselves and the hazard. This measure does not control the hazard at the source and relies on behaviour modification for its success.
The success of this control is dependent on the protective equipment being:
- Chosen correctly;
- Worn correctly;
- Used correctly; and
- Maintained in good condition.
Personal protective equipment is often an expensive option in the long term when the costs of maintenance, supervision and (potentially more) injuries are taken into account.
Examples of personal protective equipment include:
- Hearing protective devices, such as ear muffs and ear plugs;
- Protective eyewear, such as goggles;
- Safety helmets and wide brim sun hats.
Step 4 – Implement Control Measures
Step 4 involves putting selected control measures in place at your workplace. This means undertaking those activities necessary to allow the measures to function or operate effectively.
Implementing control measures involves:
Developing work procedures
Develop work procedures in relation to the new control measures to make sure they are effective. Management, supervision and worker responsibilities may need to be clearly defined in the work procedures.
For example, in relation to the use of machine guarding, the manager’s role may involve making sure the appropriate guarding is purchased and that it is installed correctly, the supervisor’s role may involve making sure the workers operate the machine only with the guarding in place, some workers’ role may involve using the machine with guarding in place as instructed and other workers’ role may involve the maintenance of the machine and guarding.
You should inform workers and others about the control measures to be implemented. It is important to clearly communicate the reasons for the changes.
Providing training and instruction
You should provide training and instruction for the workers, supervisors and others in relation to the new control measures.
You should provide adequate supervision to verify that the new control measures are being used correctly.
Maintenance relating to control measures is an important part of the implementation process. Work procedures should spell out maintenance requirements to ensure the ongoing effectiveness of the new control measures.
Step 5 – Monitor and Review
The final step in the process is to monitor and review the effectiveness of measures.
For this step, it can be useful to ask questions to determine whether:
- Chosen control measures have been implemented, as planned
- Are chosen control measures in place
- Are these measures being used
- Are these measures being used correctly
- Chosen control measures are working
- Have the changes made to control exposure to the assessed risks resulted in what was intended
- Has exposure to the assessed risks been eliminated or adequately reduced
- Are there any new problems
- Have implemented control measures resulted in the introduction of any new problems
- Have implemented control measures resulted in the worsening of any existing problems
To answer these questions, you can:
- Consult the workers, supervisors and health and safety representatives;
- Measure people’s exposure (eg, taking noise measurements in the case of isolation of a noise source); and
- Monitor incident reports.
You should set a date to review the entire workplace health and safety risk management process.
- Assuring Workplace Safety
- Employee Safety Manual – Table Of Contents
- Explosive Power Tools and Other Plant
- Hazards and Hazardous Environments
- Manual Handling
- How to use bottlenecks in your business to help you write effective standard operating procedures (SOP)
- SOP Software to help you manage your standard operating procedures (SOP)
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