How do you use a Health and Safety Risk Assessment?

Introduction to using a Risk Assessment

Before exploring how a health and safety risk assessment is used, it is imperative to understand what a risk assessment is. Simply defined, a risk assessment is a careful examination of what could potentially cause harm to employees so that an employer can weigh up whether they have effective precautions in place to prevent harm.

A risk assessment is therefore a crucial element for OHS management. Its main objective is to determine whether the employer has taken the necessary measures required to comply with the Occupational Health and Safety Act 85 of 1993 and the legal obligation of providing a healthy and safe work environment.

Why must an assessment be done?

An assessment serves the purpose of protecting employees along with the organisation in addition to ensuring that the employer complies with the law. As to when an assessment must be carried out, will depend on the frequency of significant changes to the work environment, such as at the start of every new shift, or when new machines are brought on to site, amidst others.

Employers are also advised to ensure that there are competent persons who are trained in risk assessments as the responsibility of conducting an assessment can be delegated.

How do you use a Health and Safety Risk Assessment

How is a risk assessment done?

There are numerous guidelines on how an assessment can be carried out and there are general principles indicated over five basic steps which can be followed.

Step 1 – Hazard Identification

A hazard is something that has the potential to cause harm whereas a risk is the likelihood of an incident, accident, or occupational illness resulting from that hazard.

Some common hazards that can be found include:

  • Adverse weather
  • Electricity
  • Hazardous substance
  • Machinery
  • Manual handling
  • Stress
  • Working at heights, and several others.

Step 2 – Determine who may be harmed, and how

Once all the hazards have been identified, it is crucial to establish who may be harmed, and how. It is not necessary to list each employee by name, however, groups of people can be identified such as:

  • Employees
  • Customers
  • Visitors
  • Contractors
  • Any other person who may be affected by the organisation’s activities.

How do you use a Health and Safety Risk Assessment

In addition, during this step, special consideration must be given to vulnerable people such as:

  • New and expecting mothers
  • Agency and temporary workers
  • New workers and young people
  • Migrant workers
  • Workers who work alone
  • Those who have disabilities or chronic conditions.

Step 3 – Risk evaluation and deciding on control measures

When considering each workplace hazard, the following must be considered:

  • The probability of something happening.
  • The severity of the consequences should something happen.

This will allow for actions to be prioritised and to ensure that resources are used where they are needed the most. When precautions are considered, they must be in the following order:

  • Elimination
  • Substitution
  • Engineering controls
  • Administrative controls
  • Personal protective equipment – only if all the other methods are ineffective.

Step 4 – Record the findings

It is imperative to keep a record of key findings, to prioritise actions, set deadlines for actions, and to share this information with employees. Keeping a record of the assessment serves as proof that the employer has done what is necessary to ensure that the workplace is healthy and safe.

Step 5 - Review

Assessments must be reviewed regularly to ensure that they remain valid. It is also recommended that they are reviewed once every year in addition to reviewing them if any of the following changes take place:

  • New equipment is brought onto site.
  • A change in materials being used.
  • Staff turnover and with new employees being brought onto site.
  • Changes in the premises.
  • Changes and adaptions in the processes and procedures.

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 OHS Act, 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 & safety programme of the subscriber, SafetyWallet helps subscribers with the OHS 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: 22nd Apr 2021
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