Risk management is an important way to protect your workers and your business, while at the same time complying with the law. It helps you to focus on the risks that really matter in your workplace - the ones with the potential to cause real harm.
The Safe Work Australia publication, How to Determine What is Reasonably Practicable to Meet a Health and Safety Duty is an excellent introduction to and source of guidance on this subject.
In many instances, straightforward measures can readily control risks. For example, ensuring spillages are cleaned up promptly will reduce the likelihood of people slipping, just as keeping cupboard drawers closed, or taping down cords on the floor, can help to ensure people do not trip over unnecessary hazards.
The law does not expect you to eliminate all risks - that is not always achievable, no matter how desirable it might be - but you are required to protect your workers as far as is reasonably practicable. Risk management is one of the tools available to you to achieve that.
The British Health and Safety Executive has identified the following principles of sensible risk management.
1. Sensible risk management is about:
2. Sensible risk management is not about:
The following links will provide you with some guidance on how to go about Risk Management in your workplace.
Good Management Practice
"Risk management is recognised as an integral part of good management practice. It is an interactive process consisting of steps, which, when undertaken in sequence, enable continual improvement in decision making. Risk management is the term applied to a logical and systematic method of establishing the context, identifying, analysing, treating, monitoring and communicating risks associated with any activity, function or process in a way that will enable organisations to minimise losses and maximise opportunities. Risk management is as much about identifying opportunities as avoiding or mitigating losses" - Australian Standard AS/NZS 4360:1999 - Risk Management
Defining Hazard and Risk
Hazards and risks are not the same thing.
A hazard is an act or condition that has the potential to cause damage to plant or equipment, or result in an illness or injury. Hazards can be categorised by the type of outcome, energy exchange process or geographic location - e.g. manual handling hazards, slips and trips, laundry hazards.
A risk is the likelihood of a specific consequence occurring. Risks are usually expressed in terms of likelihood and consequences - e.g. the risk of contracting Ross River Fever while working in Tasmania might be considered to be very low.
In many cases, the terms 'hazard' and 'risk' are used interchangeably. However, remember that 'hazard' has a more general application and 'risk' a specific application.
Risk management has three main stages- risk identification, risk assessment and risk control. In many cases, in the early phase of identifying risk we may in fact be looking to identify all the risks associated with a particular activity or process, in which case the activity is more properly referred to as hazard identification, risk assessment and then risk control.
Strategic approach to the management of hazards and associated risk
The aim of the process is to minimise the likelihood or consequence of a particular risk to a level that is minimal and that we are prepared to accept. The Risk Management process includes:
- the likelihood
- the consequence
- assigning a priority for rectification
D. Engineering Controls
E. Administrative Controls
F. Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
This is the process of examining each work area and work task for the purpose of identifying all the hazards which are 'inherent in the job'. Work areas include but are not limited to machine workshops, laboratories, office areas, agricultural and horticultural environments, stores and transport, maintenance and grounds. Tasks can include, but may not be limited to, using screen based equipment, audio and visual equipment, industrial equipment, hazardous substances and/or dangerous goods, teaching/dealing with people, driving a vehicle, dealing with emergency situations, visiting a client, etc.
First you need to work out how people could be harmed. when you work in a place every day it is easy to overlook some hazards, so here are a few tips to help you identify the ones that matter:
Examples of hazards include:
Remember that workplace hazard identification, assessment and control is an ongoing process which is best conducted in the context of full consultation between an employer/person in control of a business or undertaking and their workers. It should be undertaken at various times, including:
The process of hazard identification can also assist in:
Once a hazard to health and safety has been identified, the risk associated with that hazard must be examined.
As a prelude to Risk Assessment, it is useful to identify factors that may be contributing to the risk. A review of existing health and safety information, such as local workplace accident records and/or information about the hazard or risk that is available from authoritative sources (e.g. this website or other Australian or international health and safety jurisdictions or sources), will assist in understanding the risk associated with the hazard in question.
It is then necessary to evaluate the likelihood of an injury occurring, along with its probable consequences. Risk assessments are therefore based on two key factors:
A simple risk matrix, which cross references likelihood and impact, enables risk to be assessed against these two factors and identified as one of the following:
Urgent action is required for risks assessed as Critical or High risk. The actions required may include:
Documented control plans with responsibilities and completion dates may need to be developed for Moderate risks.
Having established the relative importance of dealing with the identified risk, the risk control hierarchy ranks possible control measures in decreasing order of effectiveness. Risk control measures should always aim as high in the list as practicable. Control of any given risk generally involves a number of measures drawn from the various options (except where option A is chosen).
Risk Control Hierarchy
Examples include the proper disposal of redundant items of equipment that contain substances such as asbestos, or PCBs, the removal of excess quantities of chemicals accumulated over time in a laboratory, etc.
The elimination of a hazard is a 100% effective control measure.
Examples include the replacement of solvent-based printing inks with water-based ones, of asbestos insulation or fire-proofing with synthetic fibres or rockwool, the use of titanium dioxide white pigment instead of lead white, etc.
The effectiveness of this form of control is wholly dependent on the choice of replacement.
Examples include the installation of machine guards on hazardous equipment, the provision of local exhaust ventilation over a process area releasing noxious fumes, fitting a muffler on a noisy exhaust pipe, etc.
The effectiveness of engineering controls is generally around 70-90%.
Examples include training and education, job rotation to share the load created by a demanding task or tasks, planning, scheduling certain jobs outside normal working hours to reduce general exposure (e.g. planning demolition and building works during summer recess), early reporting of signs and symptoms, instructions and warnings, etc.
The effectiveness of administrative controls generally ranges from 10-50%. they typically require significant resources to be maintained over long periods of time for continuing levels of effectiveness. They are also generally highly dependent on worker behaviour.
Examples include safety glasses and goggles, earmuffs and earplugs, hard hats, toe capped footwear, gloves, respiratory protection, aprons, etc.
Their effectiveness generally does not exceed 20%.
You will need to develop work procedures in relation to the new control measures, which may involve clearly defining responsibilities of management, supervisors and workers.
If, like many businesses, you find there are quite a lot of improvements that you could make, big and small, don't try to do everything at once. Make a plan of action to deal with the most important things first. Health and safety inspectors tend to acknowledge the efforts of businesses that are clearly trying to make improvements.
A good plan of action often includes a mixture of different things, such as:
Remember, prioritise and tackle the most important things first. As you complete each action, tick it off your plan.
You should inform all relevant persons about any control measures being implemented and, in particular, the reasons for the changes.
You should also provide adequate supervision to verify that the new control measures are being implemented and used correctly.
Any maintenance in relation to the control measures is an important part of the process. Work procedures should detail maintenance requirements as well as verification of the maintenance to ensure the ongoing effectiveness of the control measures.
Documenting the process will help ensure that identified risk control measures are implemented in the way that they were intended. It will also assist in managing other hazards and risks that may be in some way similar to ones already identified and dealt with.
Adequate record keeping of the risk management process will also help demonstrate to the regulator, or in litigation, that you have been actively working to ensure safety at your workplace. Records should show that the process has been conducted properly, including information about the hazards, associated risks and control measures that have been implemented. Information should include:
There is no prescribed way of documenting these processes. Click here to view and download a sample form that may be of use in Documenting the Risk Management Process.
Whichever method of controlling the hazard is determined, it is essential that an evaluation of its impact on the use of the equipment, substance, system or environment is carried out to ensure that the control does not contribute to the existing hazard or introduce a new hazard to the area.
It is also essential that all people concerned be informed about the changes and, where necessary, provided with the appropriate information, instruction, training and supervision as are reasonably necessary to ensure that each worker is safe from injury and risks to health. It is also recommended that after a period of time the area supervisor carry out a review of the system or control to determine its ongoing suitability.
Hazard identification and risk assessment and control are ongoing processes. Make sure that you undertake a hazard identification and risk assessment and control process whenever there is a change to the workplace, including when work systems, tools, machinery or equipment changes occur, or simply when the existing process was done some time ago and is potentially out of date or no longer valid.
Click here for details of the publication - Six Steps to Risk Management.
Click here for details of the poster - Six Steps to Risk Assessment.