Aug 29th 2022
Hazard Identification and Risk Assessment: Ways of Keeping a Safety Culture
Workplace injuries, illnesses, and incidents can be traced back to a failure to identify or recognise workplace hazards that were present or could have been prevented. A proactive hazard identification and risk assessment approach can help create a safer workplace.
Risk management is a proactive process that helps you anticipate potential problems and take steps to avoid them. It involves four step-by-step processes set out in the Code of Practice: How to manage work health and safety risks by SafeWork Australia, which is also known as the risk assessment process:
- Identifying hazards
- Assessing risks if necessary
- Controlling risks
- Reviewing control measures
The first two steps in managing risks are hazard identification and assessing risks. By identifying and assessing risks, you can develop plans to mitigate or avoid them altogether.
Risk management also helps organisations to respond quickly and effectively to changes in their business environment. It is an essential part of any business and can play a crucial role in facilitating continuous improvement.
What is Hazard Identification?
Hazard identification is one of the processes involved in risk management. It simply means identifying what could harm the safety and health of people in the workplace or site. It is the first step in managing health and safety risks to create a safe workplace.
Hazard identification aims to prevent incidents by identifying potential hazards and implementing controls to mitigate the risks. Various techniques can identify workplace hazards, including observing work activities, reviewing incident reports, and conducting job hazard analyses. Hazard identification is a continuous process that should be regularly reviewed and updated as work activities change.
Hazards in the Workplace
Workplace safety is an important issue that cannot be overlooked. Many workplace hazards can lead to incidents, accidents, or near-misses. Identifying these hazards is the first step to preventing them. The six most common workplace hazards are:
Safety Hazards – workers who work with machinery or on construction sites are more likely to be exposed to safety hazards. These hazards pose serious risks to one's health and safety, including:
- Working with machinery that has not been appropriately guarded
- Being struck by falling objects
- Slipping, falling, and tripping hazards
- Working at heights
- Working in confined spaces
- Electrical hazards
Biological Hazards – these hazards are associated with exposure to potentially dangerous chemicals and the diseases that come with working close to animals, people, or plant materials that carry infectious diseases. Most at-risk workers work in schools, daycare facilities and colleges/universities campuses, as well as in hospitals, laboratories, emergency response teams, nursing homes, and outdoor occupations. Biological hazards include:
- Exposure to bacteria and viruses
- Exposure to blood and body fluids
- Exposure to hazardous chemicals
- Animal bites and scratches
Physical Hazards – these hazards include extreme temperatures, noise, and vibration exposure. They can cause long-term health effects such as hearing loss or cancers. Workers at risk of physical hazards work in foundries, glass manufacturing plants, and agricultural or forestry occupations. More examples of physical hazards:
- Radiation exposure (including ultraviolet, infrared, and ionizing radiation)
- Working in boiler rooms or with furnaces
- Working in freezers or meat-packing plants
- Being a welder
- Working with lasers
Ergonomic Hazards – ergonomics is the study of how people interact with their environment. Ergonomic hazards arise from repetitive motions, awkward postures, and the constant exertion of force on the body. Over time, these conditions can lead to musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) such as carpal tunnel syndrome or tendonitis. Workers at risk of ergonomic hazards are often involved in office work, data entry, and manual labour. Examples of ergonomic hazards include:
- Poor ergonomic design of workstations
- Lifting heavy objects
- Working in vibrating environments
- Working in repetitive motions such as packing, typing, or sweeping
Chemical Hazards – these are hazards present in many workplaces and can come from airborne contaminants, such as specks of dust and fumes, or contact with dangerous liquids and solids, such as solvents and flammable gases. Examples include:
- Working with asbestos
- Working with hazardous chemicals such as lead, pesticides, and paint fumes
- Working with cleaning materials, such as bleach and ammonia
Psychosocial Hazards – these hazards are related to how work is designed, scheduled, and managed. They are stressors that cause tension and anxiety to workers and create safety risks to their mental health. They can be experienced in any kind of job role. Psychosocial hazards include:
- Working in long hours
- Lack of role clarity
- Tight deadlines
- Demanding work tasks
- Sexual harassment
- Workplace violence and aggression
What is Risk Assessment?
Assessing safety risks is the second step in risk management. The term "risk assessment" refers to a technique used to systematically evaluate the potential dangers in a future endeavour or action. It helps you identify what could happen, how likely it is to happen, and the consequences.
When to Conduct a Risk Assessment?
According to SafeWork Australia, a risk assessment is conducted when:
- A new job or activity is being considered
- An existing process or job is being changed in some way that may affect the effectiveness of control measures
- There is confusion regarding how workplace hazards may cause harm or disease
- There is a lack of information about how health and safety hazards may interact to create new or larger risks.
Is Risk Assessment Mandatory?
A risk assessment is a mandatory requirement under the Work Health and Safety (WHS) Regulations for high-risk activities. These activities include, but are not limited to, working in confined spaces, diving, and live electrical work. It must be carried out by a competent person with the necessary knowledge, training and experience to identify the required health and safety hazards and risk control measures.
The assessor must also take into account the specific circumstances of the work activity, including the nature of the work, the location and environment, the type of equipment and materials used, and the planned work procedures. Once the risk assessment has been completed, it must be reviewed regularly to ensure that it remains current and relevant.
When is Risk Assessment not Necessary?
In some instances, a risk assessment may not be necessary. This is typically the case when:
- Legislation requires certain hazards or risks to be controlled in a specific way, and these requirements must be followed.
- There is a code of practice or other guidelines set out on how a hazard or risk must be controlled that applies to the situation.
- There are adequate risk control measures established that are already in use and are suited to the circumstances present in the workplace.
Proactive Hazard Identification and Risk Assessment Methods
Identifying hazards before they cause harm and assessing their risks is essential. You must aim for proactive approaches rather than reactive ones. Reactive approaches are less effective, like determining what caused an injury after it has occurred. Here are proactive hazard identification and risk assessment methods you can use in your workplace:
1. Conducting pre-start discussions or toolbox talks – pre-start discussions allow workers to ask questions and raise concerns about the work they are about to undertake. It means taking a few minutes to discuss the task, identify potential hazards, and agree on the safest way to do the job. Use a Toolbox Talk Template to ensure all the key topics are covered, and discussions are guided. You can also use the Take 5 Pre-start Checklist before starting your work.
2. Conducting regular safety audits – safety audits involve walking around the workplace and looking for hazards. These can be done by a health and safety representative or a team of employees. An Internal Audit Report document is helpful for auditors in keeping a record of their findings.
3. Inspecting the workplace – inspections include looking for hazards when setting up a new workstation or equipment, trip and slip hazards, and electrical hazards. A Workplace Inspection Checklist can help you cover all the key areas without missing anything.
4. Implementing a near-miss reporting system – a near-miss is an event that could have resulted in harm but didn’t. By reporting near-misses, you can prevent future accidents from happening. Use a Near Miss Report Register to document all the details of the event.
5. Investigating past incidents – you can learn from past incidents to prevent them from happening again. Reviewing past incidents can help you identify hazards you may have missed and assess risk control measures if they are working effectively. Use an Incident and Investigation Report Form to document the incident's details and the investigation's findings.
6. Conducting job safety analyses (JSA) – JSAs, also called job hazard analysis (JHA), is a technique that involves breaking down a job into its tasks and then identifying the hazards associated with each task. Doing a JSA can help you determine the safety measures needed to control the risks. Use a Job Safety Analysis Template to guide you through the process.
7. Reviewing product, material, or equipment information such as safety data sheets and manuals – when you receive new products, materials, or equipment, be sure to review their safety information, commonly found in safety data sheets. This will help you understand the hazards and how to control them. You can use the Plant and Equipment Register to keep your equipment information records.
8. Carrying out work environment monitoring – this involves checking the air quality, temperature, lighting, noise levels, and other factors that can affect employee health and safety. Use an Environmental Site Assessment Checklist to be guided on what to look for.
9. Consulting workers – employee consultation is a two-way process where information is exchanged between management and workers. This helps ensure that everyone is aware of the hazards and risks in the workplace and can contribute to finding solutions. You can use the Consultation, Cooperation & Coordination Policy to ensure all the key points are covered in the consultation process.
10. Reviewing work procedures – it’s essential to review your work procedures regularly to ensure they are still effective in keeping your organisation on track with the objectives and goals. The Objectives & Targets Policy safety document can help you in the review process.
Get Needed Safety Documents from SafetyDocs!
There are many hazards that workers face in the workplace every day. Failure to spot them can often lead to serious injuries and dangers. This is why all safety and health programs must consistently identify and assess hazards to ensure that all workers are safe and protected. Having the right safety documents helps ensure that your employees are aware and guided on what to do to prevent workplace accidents and injuries.
SafetyDocs by SafetyCulture provides the necessary safety documents and templates, such as hazard identification and risk assessment templates, that you need to develop and implement an effective risk control system. You can rest assured that our products are of the highest quality and compliant with Australian standards. We are one of Australia’s most trusted providers of safety documentation in keeping risk control management systems effective. All our safety documents are customisable, so you can easily add your company’s logo, details, and specific instructions.
Browse our catalogue of hazard identification and risk assessment documents to get started working together in creating a safer workplace. If you need help creating a comprehensive safety program for your business, connecting with SafetyDocs is the place to go.
Available for instant download and supplied in fully editable MS Word format for use in your business.
Please note that the above information is provided as a comment only and should not be relied on as professional, legal or financial advice.
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