How to effectively manage work health and safety risks

It is important for businesses to evaluate all possible work health and safety risks that may impose harm to people if exposed to the hazard. This Business Kitz blog will go into detail about the process of identifying and managing potential dangerous risks. Health and safety risks in a workplace should be dealt with immediately by either eliminating the risk or minimising it. Managing work health and safety risks is a continuous process that is required to maintain health and safety. It is simply a problem-solving process that aims to define issues (identify hazards), collect information about issues (evaluate risks), and solves issues (control the risks).

What is a risk assessment?

Conducting a risk assessment is the best way to identify any hazards in the workplace, to then introduce measures to eliminate or minimise the risks. Where control has been adopted to address an identified danger, the efficacy of the control should be evaluated (evaluation). The entire hazard management procedure should be reassessed when some time has passed or when something changes.

Where control has been adopted to address an identified danger, the efficacy of the control should be evaluated (evaluation). The entire hazard management procedure should be reassessed when some time has passed or when something changes. The hazard management procedure is as follows:

  1. Identify hazards – find and identify any possible risks
  2. Assess any risks and understand the nature of the harm that could occur, what is the seriousness and possibility of it happening. 
  3. Control the identified risks – create reasonable and realistic control measures.
  4. Review and evaluate control measures to ensure they are effectively working.

How to identify potential hazards?

Identifying hazards involves investigating possible risks and scenarios that may cause harm to someone. 

Common work health and safety risks arise from:

  • The physical work environment;
  • Any equipment, materials or machinery used in the workplace;
  • Potential work tasks and how they are performed; or
  • The work design and management.

Methods that are useful for identifying hazards in the workplace are:

  • Regularly inspecting the workplace and observing how employees perform tasks;
  • Talk with workers about any potential work health and safety risks they have either experienced or are concerned about;
  • Thoroughly analyse workplace incidents, near misses or employee complaints; and
  • Evaluate any information and advice regarding dangers and risks specific to your sector or the sort of job you undertake, such as those offered by industry groups, manufacturers, or suppliers.

It’s also important to consider any long-term hazards. These could be hazards that after prolonged exposure which may cause serious harm, such as exposure to chemicals or loud noises. 

How do I assess risks?

It’s crucial to complete risk assessments when:

  • there is ambiguity regarding how a hazard may cause harm to an individual;
  • the job activity includes a variety of dangers, and there is a lack of understanding about how the hazards may interact with one another to create new or increased risks; or
  • there are changes in the workplace that have occurred and therefore may affect the current control measures.

Can I control the risks?

There is a hierarchy of risk control that was designed to ensure correct measures are in place to minimise work health and safety risks. Risks are ranked from the highest level of protection and reliability to the lowest. When using the hierarchy, it’s recommended to implement high-order risk controls.

Level 1

Eliminate: Remove the danger entirely from the workplace, such as by eliminating trip hazards from the floor or disposing of hazardous materials. This is the most effective control method and should always be considered first.

Level 2

Substitute: Replace the danger with less hazardous work practices, such as switching from solvent-based to water-based paints. 

Isolate: Separate the danger or hazardous work practices from people as much as possible by distance or utilising barriers, such as posting guards around moving sections of machinery.

Engineering controls: These are physical control methods, such as lifting big things using a cart.

Level 3

Administrative controls: These should be considered only when other higher-level control techniques are impractical. These are work practises or processes aimed to reduce exposure to hazards, such as designing a procedure for properly operating machinery or employing signs to notify individuals of a hazard.

Personal protective equipment (PPE): Ear muffs, hard hats, masks, gloves, protective eyewear, and other types of PPE should only be used as a last resort because they do nothing to mitigate the threat. The effectiveness of the device is also dependent on its correct fit, use and maintenance.

In certain circumstances, a combination of control measures may be required to offer the maximum level of protection that is practically possible. It is critical to examine if any additional risks will be introduced as a result of selecting and executing a combination of control measures.

Level 4

All control measures that have been implemented, should be subject to a review, if required, to ensure they are working.

You are required to review your control measures when:

  • the implemented controls measure is not working and an incident occurs as a result of this;
  • if additional hazards or risks are identified;
  • if the results of the consultation suggest that a review is required;
  • before a workplace change that is likely to result in a new or different work health and safety risks that the control measure may not effectively control; or
  • if a Health and Safety Representative has requested a review.

A review of the control measures involves the same method of initial hazard identification steps. 

How do I manage my work health and safety risks?

Keeping track of your risk management strategy will help you demonstrate possible compliance with workplace health and safety regulations. It can also assist you in monitoring your company’s health and safety performance.

The WHS (Work Health and Safety) Regulations provide particular record-keeping obligations for some dangers, such as hazardous chemicals and asbestos. If such dangers are discovered at your workplace, you must retain the necessary documents for the required period of time. It is important that you keep all records on work health and safety information, to protect the business if someone was to potentially sue for negligence. If this were to occur, you would then have all documentation stating that you were aware of the risk and tried to eliminate or minimise the risk. 

The length and complexity of your recording will be determined by the size of your workplace and the possibility of severe work health and safety hazards.

Legal advice

To protect the employees, as well as the business, it’s important to have appropriate work health and safety risks in place. If your business requires initial or additional health and safety risk agreements or documentation,  Business Kitz can ease the process with our customisable agreement templates that are up to date with legal standards. If you need legal advice or need assistance regarding work health and safety risks, our sister company, Legal Kitz, can assist you. You can book a free 30-minute consultation with their experienced and highly qualified team via our website now.

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