General Health and Safety Risk Assessment
As part of the compliance that employers must have with the Occupational Health and Safety Act, 85 of 1993, employers must ensure that all operations and work activities are suitably and sufficiently assessed to ensure that there are adequate controls in place.
General health and safety risk assessment form an integral part of effectively managing health and safety within the organisation. The procedure involved with risk assessments identifies, instructs, and advises all levels of management on how a suitable and effective risk assessment can be carried out.
Responsibilities in the Health and Safety Risk Assessment
The health and safety policy of the organisation must clearly indicate the responsibilities of for all chief executives, directors, managers, employees, and working groups involved with all:
- Health and safety policies
- Health and safety procedures
- Working guidelines
In relation to the health and safety risk assessment procedure and in addition, all directors, senior managers, and line managers must ensure that this procedure is adhered to in all areas that fall under their jurisdiction.
Directors must ensure that, to meet the needs of the organisation, there must be an adequate number of competent persons trained to carry out a risk assessment within their area of responsibility.
The responsibility for carrying out the risk assessment is a function as well as a responsibility of line managers and it is a task that may be delegated to competent persons. Line management must ensure that relevant information is given to those who may be, or who are, exposed to hazards and associated risks while they carry out their duties.
- Risk assessment – which is the careful examination of what could cause harm to employees by following the process of hazard identification, evaluating the associated risks, and implementing measures of control to minimise the likelihood of harm.
- Hazard – which is something that has the potential to cause harm.
- Likelihood – which is the frequency of occurrence of harm, or how often.
- Severity relates to the level of harm, arising if the hazard is realised.
- Harm – which includes death, major injury, minor injury, additional treatment, damage to, or loss of, property.
- Risk – which is the combination of the likelihood as well as the severity of the hazard that is realised.
- Risk score/rating – which is the calculation of the likelihood of the occurrence multiplied by the severity of the risk, considering current and existing controls.
- Suitable and sufficient – suitable refers to proper, appropriate, and fit whereas sufficient refers to something being considered enough to meet a need or a purpose. The risk assessment must identify the risks that arise form, or are in connection with, the work as well as the level of detail, which must be proportionate to the risk.
- Competent person – which is a person who has acquired, through training, qualification, or experience, the knowledge as well as the skill to carry out a full and proper risk assessment.
- Reasonably practicable – which refers to the employer doing everything ‘reasonably practicable’ to protect employees from harm. It translates to balancing the level of risk against the measures which are needed to control the real risks relating to money, time, or trouble. However, employers need not act if it would be grossly disproportionate to the safety benefit and level of risk.
The risk assessment serves the purpose of answering simple, related questions:
- What can go wrong, how badly, is there a need for action?
- What can go wrong, how often, is there a need for action?
The following easy steps can be followed to conduct an effective risk assessment.
Step 1 – Hazard identification
First, employers must determine how people could be harmed, to help with this, employers can do so by:
- Using a checklist to inspect and identify hazards in the workplace.
- Map or describe the activity that must be assessed.
- Walk around the workplace and consider what could go wrong.
- Ask employees for their input and feedback.
- Speak to safety representatives.
- Check the manufacturer’s instructions or equipment.
- Consider Material Safety Data Sheets for chemicals used.
- Review incident forms and investigations along with sickness absence records.
- Consider long-term hazards such as noise, chemicals, stress, and several others.
- Make use of the health and safety inspection checklists to identify hazards.
Examples of Hazards
- Bodily fluids
- Biological agents
- Compressed air
- Confined spaces
- Contact with hot objects and/or surfaces, substances, and so on.
- Loading/unloading vehicles
- Flammable gas cylinders
- Falling from height
- Slips and trips, and more.
Step 2 – Decide who may be harmed and how
For every hazard that is identified, the employer must consider who may be harmed. By realising this, it will help to identify the best way of managing the risk. Consider people by their job titles, or a group such as drivers, maintenance staff, contractors, visitors, and others.
Step 3 – Evaluate the risks and determine precautions
Once the hazards have been identified, the next step is deciding what can be done about them. Consider both the likelihood as well as the severity. Employers are expected to do everything ‘reasonably practicable’ to protect employees and others from harm.
First, consider the measures that are already in place and how the work is organised. Compare this with best practice and determine if there is more that can be done to ensure that the workplace is compliant.
When controlling risks, there is a hierarchy of control measures that must be used to reduce risks:
- Elimination or avoidance – by getting rid of the risk altogether.
- Substitution or reduction – diluting or switching a chemical to a less hazardous one.
- Separation and isolation – preventing access to the hazard or placing a barrier between employees and the hazard.
- Control – by providing training, instruction, and supervision or organising the work to reduce exposure.
- Issuing of personal protective equipment (PPE) – which is the last resort when all other controls are ineffective.
Examples of Control Measures
- Agreed procedures or safe working procedures for an activity.
- Changing the way in which the task is carried out.
- Machine guarding
- Permits to work
- Method statements
- Perform work under supervision only
- Standard Operating Procedures
- Fall protection
- Debrief following activity
- Safety Signage
- Improved security
- Specialists advise and/or support, and others.
Step 4 – Record findings and implement them
Once the risk assessment has been carried out, it must be recorded. Results of the risk assessments must be put into practice as it can make a vital difference in the health and safety of the workplace. It can also help to create a safety culture among employees.
When further actions are listed, it is crucial to remember that timescales, responsible persons, and priorities be indicated to tackle the most significant risks first.
The findings of the risk assessment must be communicated to the employees that it relates to.
Step 5 – Risk assessment review
Risk assessments must be fit for the purpose and line managers must ensure that the risk assessments are relevant to the work activity. It is important for risk assessments to be reviewed whenever there are changes in:
- Work processes
It is also imperative to review the risk assessment after an incident, accident, or injury has occurred.
How does SafetyWallet support its subscribers?
SafetyWallet, in partnership with MAKROSAFE and OHS Online, ensures that subscribers can obtain the highest level of compliance with the Occupational Health and Safety Act, all other Regulations, and more.
Through the assistance and support in the health and safety programme of the subscriber, SafetyWallet helps subscribers with the health and safety risk assessments that must be conducted to ensure that subscribers are compliant in providing a healthy and safe working environment.
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