Health and Safety Risk Assessment Hazards


Health and safety risk assessments involve a systematic method of evaluating work activities, identifying workplace hazards, considering what may go wrong, and deciding on appropriate control measures. These measures are designed to eliminate, reduce, or minimise the risk of losses, damages, and/or injuries in the workplace.

It is the legal obligation of all employers to ensure that they provide a healthy and safe work environment for all employees, visitors, customers, and anyone who may be affected by work activities of the organisation.

Health and safety risk assessments must contain information, which is current, but it is important that employers also consider issues in the workplace relating to Covid-19 as the pandemic is an ongoing health risk.

It is necessary for employers to make suitable arrangements to keep all staff and visitors safe.

How to carry out a risk assessment

To carry out an effective health and safety risk assessment, there are five distinct steps involved. These will be discussed in detail in the sections below.

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Identification of safety hazards

The first step when carrying out a risk assessment involves the identification of potential hazards which may be present in the workplace. This involves:

  • Interviewing employees – they may know of hazards that are not as obvious to the employer.
  • Observing the activities and tasks performed by employees.
  • Reviewing accident, near miss, and ill-health records.
  • Reading the instructions, manuals, and guidelines for tools as well as equipment.
  • Checking the information which is contained in Material Safety Data Sheets for hazardous substances.
  • Considering other situations such as issues with equipment, machinery, maintenance, or cleaning, amidst others.

Common Hazards

Some common hazards in the workplace which could be found in the workplace include, but is not limited to:

  • Adverse weather
  • Biological agents
  • Electricity
  • Hazardous substances
  • Machinery
  • Manual Handling
  • Wet floors
  • Obstructed walkways
  • Heights
  • Stress
  • Vehicles and workplace transport
  • Violence and aggression
  • Confined spaces

Specific risk assessments

The risk assessment process must be used to identify hazards in the workplace. It also helps to evaluate the control measures which are in place to manage these risks.

The goal is to ensure that activities are carried out without risks to the health and/or safety of employees and others. Some hazards which are identified may require different approaches as result of their complexity or their specific legal requirements.

Such risks include the identification of noise, fire, vibration, manual handling, and others. Hazards such as these require a systematic approach as they cannot always be eliminated, but risks can be reduced and controlled.

Who might be harmed, and how?

Once the potential hazards have been identified in the first step, the next step in the health and safety risk assessment involves establishing who may be harmed, and how.

It is crucial to identify groups of people such as:

  • Employees
  • Customers
  • Visitors
  • Contractors
  • Any other person who may be affected by activities.

It is also crucial that special consideration be granted to vulnerable persons such as:

  • New and expectant mothers
  • Agency and temporary workers
  • New workers and young people
  • Migrant workers
  • Lone or remote workers
  • People who have disabilities and/or long-term health conditions.

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The next step in the health and safety risk assessment involves evaluating and determining precautions in the risk assessment.

When considering a hazard, it is crucial to assess:

  • The likelihood of an incident/accident occurring.
  • How severe the consequence may be if an incident/accident occurs.

This will allow for actions to be prioritised accordingly and to ensure that resources are being used where they are needed the most.

When precautions are being considered, it must be done in the following order:

  • Elimination – for instance redesigning the work to eliminate the need for manual handling or conducting work at heights.
  • Substitution – for instance, changing a hazardous substance for one which is less hazardous.
  • Engineering controls – such as machine guards or barriers between employees and machines or the hazard.
  • Administrative controls – such as rotating employees around tasks to reduce the exposure period to a specific risk such as noise.
  • Personal Protective Equipment which is the last option if the above methods are ineffective.

Record and share findings

Once the risks have been evaluated and decisions have been made towards the precautions, the following steps involves the recording and sharing of the information in the following order:

  • Record the key findings.
  • Prioritise the actions according to risk severity.
  • Set deadlines for each action.
  • Share the information with employees.

It is imperative to keep a written record of the risk assessment so that they can be reviewed and updated. They also serve as historical documents for future reference, in addition, they are among the first documents requested by legal authorities or inspectors during investigations following an adverse event.

Review risk assessments regularly

The final step in the health and safety risk assessment process involves the regular review of risk assessments to ensure that they are still valid. It is recommended for risk assessments to be reviewed yearly. However, they can also be reviewed when changes take place in the following:

  • Equipment
  • Materials
  • People
  • Premises
  • Processes

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 85 of 1993, all other Regulations, and more.

MAKROSAFE have been assisting clients for more than 23 years with recommendations and risk assessments for a hazard-free environment.
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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.

Keeping your workplace legally Health and Safety Compliant may seem like a daunting task. At MAKROSAFE, we have an experienced team of OHS experts available to assist in keeping your company Health and Safety Compliant according to South African Occupational Health and Safety Act 85 of 1993 and Regulations.
The MAKROSAFE Health and Safety Risk Control Package will assist you with your Risk Management Programme.
By signing up with our Health and Safety Risk Control Package, MAKROSAFE will assist you with your Risk Management journey.
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Posted date: 16th Apr 2021
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