Risk assessment and hazard controls risk assessment and hazard controls

Risk Assessment and Hazard Controls

In a theoretical world every Hazard would be identified and an appropriate control would be placed on it thus there would be zero near misses, incidents, injuries and accidents. Unfortunately you and I live in an imperfect world and as the old saying goes “stuff happens”.

Rather than delve into why “stuff happens” in this article, (and I will look at that in a future Blog),  I thought it would be of value to go over some of the elements of the subject title.

To commence here is my personal definition of these things in the context of Work Health and Safety:

  • A Hazard is anything that has the potential to cause, injury, death or loss.

  • Risk is a situation involving exposure to danger and the resultant likelihood of injury, death or loss.

  • An assessment is the act of making a decision as to the risk imposed by a thing or situation

  • A control is a mechanism/system used to eliminate the potential risk of a hazard

With the definitions tabled let us consider what constitutes a Hazard.

As a younger man I learnt to ride a motorbike, a passion I still hold. I recall the instructor telling me on my first day “there are only 2 things that can hurt you on a motorbike, anything that moves and anything that doesn’t”. In a workplace context I believe this also stands true. From my perspective your industry has both general and specific Hazards. The general Hazards include walkways, steps, doors, tables etc. ie things we find in everyday life. The specific Hazards include equipment, irregular ground, electricity, processes, heavy machinery etc. these are things that are peculiar to your job function and industry segment.

The task of identifying Hazards falls to every worker regardless of position and your employer would conduct Hazard identification assessments on an ongoing basis. The targets of these assessments are defined by a combination of elements that include but are not limited to, feedback from employees, the incident history of your workplace, the defined level of risk in your industry segment and the experience and expertise of your Safety Manager.

Once a Hazard has been identified then a control has to be placed over it. Here is the hierarchy of controls that we at HBA Learning Centres utilise in our BSB41415 Certificate IV in Work Health and Safety course:

  • Eliminate: this is the preferred option. An example of this would be walking past a pane of glass in a factory. If we remove the glass we have eliminated the Hazard.
  • Substitute: this is the second best option and should only be used if you cannot eliminate the Hazard. An example of this would be using a backhoe to dig a ditch near underground power lines; we could replace the backhoe with a more precise piece of equipment.
  • Isolate: this is the third best option and should only be used if the first two are not able to be utilised. An example of this would be a group of valves holding high pressure, to ensure safety via isolation a lock is applied to the valves so that they may not be physically turned.
  • Engineer: the fourth best option and only to be used if the first two are not possible. An example would be a shovel that has splinters in it. If we sand the handle smooth we have controlled the Hazard through Engineering.
  • Administer: we are getting into the lower levels of control now and this is only to be used where the previous levels are not able to be utilised. An example of this is using a hydraulic press in a manufacturing environment. If we provide a finely detailed and controlled set of processes and procedures coupled to specific operator training then we have controlled the Hazard by Administration.
  • Personal Protective Equipment: this is the last line of defence as it is the weakest of all controls. It should only be used where the other levels are deemed either not possible or subject to failure.

So please remember to report any Hazard you see to your Safety Officer and if you are able to recommend a control given your experience then I am sure they would welcome the contribution.

Stay safe in this world that seems to become more dangerous every single day.

– Harold Baldry