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Risk Management


Five steps to risk assessment
(based on the HSE Website - adopted for Australia)

Five steps to risk assessment aims to help you assess health and safety risks.

A risk assessment is an important step in protecting your workers and your business, as well as complying with the law. It helps you focus on the risks that really matter in your workplace – the ones with the potential to cause real harm. In many instances, straightforward measures can readily control risks, for example ensuring spillages are cleaned up promptly so people do not slip. For most, that means simple, cheap and effective measures to ensure your most valuable asset - your workforce - is protected.

The law does not expect you to eliminate all risk, but you are required to protect people as far as ‘reasonably practicable’. This guide tells you how to achieve that with a minimum of fuss.

This is not the only way to do a risk assessment, there are other methods that work well, particularly for more complex risks and circumstances. However, we believe this method is the most straightforward for most organisations.


What is risk assessment?

A risk assessment is simply a careful examination of what, in your work, could cause harm to people, so that you can weigh up whether you have taken enough precautions or should do more to prevent harm. Workers and others have a right to be protected from harm caused by a failure to take reasonable control measures.

Accidents and ill health can ruin lives and affect your business too if output is lost, machinery is damaged, insurance costs increase or you have to go to court. You are legally required to assess the risks in your workplace so that you put in place a plan to control the risks.


How to assess the risks in your workplace
Step 1: Identify the hazards
Step 2: Decide who might be harmed and how
Step 3: Evaluate the risks and decide on precaution
Step 4: Record your findings and implement them
Step 5: Review your assessment and update if necessary

Don’t overcomplicate the process. In many organisations, the risks are well known and the necessary control measures are easy to apply. You probably already know whether, for example, you have employees who move heavy loads and so could harm their backs, or where people are most likely to slip or trip. If so, check that you have taken reasonable precautions to avoid injury.

If you run a small organisation and you are confident you understand what’s involved, you can do the assessment yourself. You don’t have to be a health and safety expert. If you are not confident, get help from someone who is competent.

We can help you to get started or take you through the whole process, give us a call!

In all cases, you should make sure that you involve your staff or their representatives in the process. They will have useful information about how the work is done that will make your assessment of the risk more thorough and effective. But remember, you are responsible for seeing that the assessment is carried out properly.

When thinking about your risk assessment, remember:

  • a hazard is anything that may cause harm, such as chemicals, electricity, working from ladders, an open drawer etc;
  • the risk is the chance, high or low, that somebody could be harmed by these and other hazards, together with an indication of how serious the harm could be.

Some frequently asked questions

What if the work I do tends to vary a lot, or I (or my employees) move from one site to another?

Identify the hazards you can reasonably expect and assess the risks from them. This general assessment should stand you in good stead for the majority of your work. Where you do take on work or a new site that is different, cover any new or different hazards with a specific assessment. You do not have to start from scratch each time.

What if I share a workplace?

Tell the other employers and self-employed people there about any risks your work could cause them, and what precautions you are taking. Also, think about the risks to your own workforce from those who share your workplace.

Do my employees have responsibilities?

Yes. Employees have legal responsibilities to co-operate with their employer’s efforts to improve health and safety (eg they must wear protective equipment when it is provided), and to look out for each other.

What if one of my employee’s circumstances change?

You’ll need to look again at the risk assessment. You are required to carry out a specific risk assessment for new or expectant mothers, as some tasks (heavy lifting or work with chemicals for example) may not be appropriate. If an employee develops a disability then you are required to make reasonable adjustments. People returning to work following major surgery may also have particular requirements. If you put your mind to it, you can almost always find a way forward that works for you and your employees.

Getting help

If you get stuck, don’t give up. There is a wealth of information available to help you. More information about legal requirements and standards can be found on the WorkCover site such as this Code of Practice or you can contact us!

 

 

a practical approach...