Health and Safety Risk Assessment – Part 2
What is a Risk Assessment?
A health and safety risk assessment can simply be defined as a process that involves the identification of hazards and risks, the analysing and evaluation thereof, and determining the best way to control or eliminate the risk.
A health and safety risk assessment is a crucial part of any effective occupational health and safety management plan. When an effective health and safety risk assessment is conducted, hazards and risks can be uncovered and the people who are most likely to be at risk can be identified and safeguarded.
Even though the Occupational Health and Safety Act expects for a health and safety risk assessment to be done annually, it is imperative for a risk assessment to be conducted when an incident has occurred, there are significant changes in the work environment, before new activities start, and when there are any new hazards identified within the workplace, which could cause risk.
How is a risk assessment done?
Health and risk assessments consist of a series of steps that can be followed, namely:
- Identification of hazards.
- Assessing the risks.
- Controlling the risks.
- Recording findings.
- Reviewing the controls.
Identification of hazards
Considerations must include:
- How people work as well as how plant and equipment is used
- What chemicals and substances are in use?
- What safe, or unsafe, work practices exist
- The general state of the work premises
When hazards are identified, it is crucial to consult and involve employees as they may provide valuable insight.
Assess the Risks
Once the hazards have been identified, it is important to decide how likely it is that someone will be harmed, and how serious it could be.
The following must be determined:
- Who may be harmed, and how?
- What can be done to control the risk?
- What further action can be taken to control the risks?
- Who must carry out the action?
- By when is action needed?
Control the Risks
It is important to consider the controls that are already in place versus the following:
- Can the hazard be eliminated altogether?
- If not, how can the risks be controlled so that harm is unlikely?
If further controls are needed, the following can be considered:
- Redesigning the work.
- Replacing the materials, machinery, or the process.
- Organising the work to reduce exposure to either the materials, machinery or the process.
- The identification and implementation of practical measures needed to work safely.
- Providing personal protective equipment and ensuring that employees wear it.
Significant findings must be recorded, including:
- The hazards
- Who may be harmed, and how?
- What is being done to control the risks?
Controls that have been implemented must be reviewed to ensure that they are effective. They must also be reviewed if:
- They are no longer effective
- There are changes in the workplace that could lead to new risks.
How are hazards identified?
Hazards can be identified in a variety of ways and to ensure that all hazards are identified, it is imperative to consider the following:
- The aspects of the work
- Non-routine activities including maintenance, repair, cleaning, and others.
- Incident, accident, and near-miss records.
- People who work off-site or at home.
- The way in which work is organised or done.
- Foreseeable unusual conditions.
- Determine whether products, machines, or equipment can be intentionally or unintentionally change, such as guards that can be removed.
- Review all phases of the lifecycle.
- Examine risks to visitors or the public.
How to know if a hazard will cause harm
Every hazard must be studied to determine its level of risk. This can be done by viewing or consulting:
- Product information
- Previous or past experience
- Legislative requirements and/or any applicable standards.
- Industry Codes of Practice
- Material Safety Data Sheets
- Information from reputable organisations
- Results from testing
- The expertise of occupational health and safety professionals.
- Observation of the process or the task, and several others.
How are risks ranked/prioritised?
One way to help determine which risk is more serious and therefore must be controlled first is to rank or prioritise risks. Priority is often determined by considering the employee's exposure and the potential for an incident, injury, or illness.
The Risk matrix is one of the best tools used to assign a priority or a level to risk by viewing the probability in terms of severity. This places the risk in a certain category from very low risk to an immediately dangerous category, which indicates whether the risk must be addressed immediately, or whether monitoring is what is needed.
What are the methods of hazard control?
Hazards can be controlled or mitigated in the following ways:
- Elimination, which includes substitution.
- Engineering controls.
- Administrative controls.
- Personal protective equipment.
Why must assessments be reviewed and monitored?
It is imperative to know whether the risk assessment was complete as well as accurate. It is also crucial to be sure that changes in the workplace have not introduced new hazards or changed hazards that were once ranked at a lower priority to a higher priority.
It is best practice to review assessments regularly to ensure that control methods are effective.
What documentation must be done for a risk assessment?
Recordkeeping of risk assessments as well as any control actions which are taken is imperative. The level of documentation or recordkeeping will be determined by:
- The level of the risk involved.
- Legislative requirements.
- Requirements of any management systems that are in place.
Thus, records must reflect the following:
- That a proper hazard review was conducted.
- That the risks of hazards have been determined.
- That control measures which are suitable for the risk were implemented.
- That all hazards in the workplace were reviewed and monitored.
What principles must be considered in the workplace?
To prevent injury or illness to persons and/or damage to equipment, buildings, machines, and other infrastructure, the following principles must be considered:
- Where possible, for less risky options to be chosen.
- For access to the hazard to be prevented or restricted, for instance, putting machine guards in place.
- Re-organisation of the workplace to avoid accidental exposure to hazards.
- The issuing of PPE and implementation of stringent rules to ensure that employees wear the correct and appliable PPE for their work tasks.
- To ensure that employees are trained and prepared for emergency situations.
What laws are in place in the interest of South African Employees?
In the interest of South African employees, the following laws have been drafted and implemented:
- The Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA), Act 85 of 1993.
- The Mine Health and Safety Act (MHSA)
- The Compensation for Occupational Injuries and Diseases Act (COIDA)
- The Occupational Diseases in Mines and Works Act (ODMWA)
- The Basic Conditions of Employment Act (BCEA)
- The Labour Relations Act (LRA)
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.
For more information, click here.
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