OHS Risk Assessment
(Occupational Health and Safety) OHS Risk Assessment
As per the Amended Occupational Health and Safety Act 85 of 1993, Section 29, an inspector may, without any prior notice, enter any premises occupied and used by an employer to perform work. In addition, the inspector may also request documentation relating to the health and the safety of an organisation, including the OHS Risk Assessment plan.
This document is crucial to the inspector as it explains the risks which are associated with the work environment and it also serves as a contingency plan that clearly indicates how the organisation keeps its employees safe.
The health and risk assessment is a key area that has changed with the amended OHS Act, with imperative factors being described. This includes conducting a workplace-specific assessment and the development and implementation of a risk management plan in writing.
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What is a Risk Assessment?
An OHS Risk Assessment is a term that is used to describe the overall process or method where hazards and risks are identified, where they are analysed and evaluated, and where the appropriate action to control or eliminate them is determined.
Assessments form part of an effective risk management system and the primary objective thereof is to assist the organisation in addressing any foreseeable health and safety risks. Risk management includes all practices as well as standards and procedures which must be reviewed regularly.
All the existing management system effectiveness must be reviewed, determining whether any improvements are necessary. The progress of risk management must subsequently involve close monitoring to ensure that all hazards and risks are identified, managed, controlled, and monitored.
Why is a Risk Assessment document necessary?
An assessment document must be created to describe the possible risks which may threaten the health and/or the safety of employees. It is also used to help the employer understand the possible hazards and risks that pose a threat to employees and why they are considered hazards.
Once the “Why” is understood, risks can easily be managed within the work environment.
It is imperative to ensure that all risks, despite their size or severity, are included in the assessment. The assessment document must explain the method of assessment that is used to identify the hazards and indicate the identified steps dedicated to removing, reducing, or controlling the hazards.
The detail through which the risk within the document is described will depend on the complexity of the operations as well as the severity of the hazard.
When must a Risk Assessment be done?
An assessment must be conducted annually, or:
- Before new processes or activities are introduced.
- Before any changes are introduced to existing processes and/or activities, which includes products, machinery, tools, equipment changes, or new information.
- When and where hazards are identified.
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What is involved in Risk Assessment planning?
- Determining the scope of the assessment
- The resources which will be needed.
- The type of risk analysis measures that will be used.
- The stakeholders who need to be involved.
- The relevant laws, regulations, codes, or standards which may apply.
How is a Risk Assessment done?
To conduct a risk assessment, the following must be done:
- Hazards must be identified.
- The likelihood of harm must be determined along with the severity thereof by considering normal operational situations and non-routine events, the available health and safety information must be reviewed, the minimum legislative requirements must be understood and considered.
- The actions necessary to eliminate the hazard, or to control it if elimination is not possible must be determined, using the hierarchy of risk control methods.
- There must be an evaluation done to confirm whether the hazard is eliminated or appropriately controlled.
- Monitoring to ensure that controls are effective.
- Effective recordkeeping.
In addition, when an assessment is done, the following must be considered:
- Methods and procedures which are used in the processing, use, handling, or the storage of substances.
- Both the actual and the potential exposure of employees.
- Measures and procedures which are necessary to control exposure through engineering controls, work practices, and others.
- The duration as well as the frequency of the task.
- Location of the task or work activity.
- The machines, tools, materials, and other components used in operation and how they are used.
- Interactions with other activities in the area.
- The lifecycle of the product, the process, or the service.
- Education and training of employees.
- How employees will react in a particular situation, such as an emergency.
Why is the Risk Assessment important to an inspector?
The assessment document will inform an inspector of everything that they need to know about the organisation. It will also show whether the employer understands their responsibility and how well they care for their employees. In addition, the assessment document will also show that the employer has a plan in place if anything occurs in the organisation.
Employers who do not have an updated assessment document in place may face profound consequences that may lead to unwanted financial costs, negative impacts, and/or penalties.
What are the distinct types of Risk Assessments?
There is a variety of OHS risk assessments that can be conducted, including, but not limited to:
- Baseline risk assessments, or Baseline HIRA
- Issue-based risk assessments, or Issue-based HIRA
- Continuous risk assessments, or Continuous HIRA
Baseline Risk Assessments
A baseline risk assessment is conducted to establish a risk profile or a set of risk profiles. It is commonly used to prioritise action programs for issue-based risk assessments.
The baseline assessment must be performed to obtain a benchmark pertaining to the types and the size of potential hazards that may impact the entire organisation. In addition, they must identify the major and significant risks followed by the prioritisation of risks and the evaluation of the effectiveness of current systems for risk control.
Baseline assessments focus on a broad overview to determine the risk profile which must be used in subsequent risk assessments.
Examples of baseline assessments include:
- Hygiene and health surveys on noise, illumination, ventilation, and several others.
- An environmental impact and aspect registers.
- Fire risk assessments, and several others.
Issue-based Risk Assessments
The purpose of conducting an issue-based HIRA is to conduct a detailed assessment study which results in the development of various action plans to treat significant risks.
This specific type of assessment is typically focused on operational activities as well as processes and system-based business functions. Issue-based HIRA is also focused on the identification of the risks that are contained in a certain task, process, or an activity, usually strongly associated with the management of change (MOC).
Examples of Issue-based HIRA include, but is not limited to:
- New machines which are introduced to a site.
- A system of work or operations which are changed.
- Following an accident or a near-miss which has occurred.
- When there are new designs, layouts, equipment, and/or processes.
- If findings come to the light during a continuous HIRA.
- If it is requested by employees, and several others.
Continuous Risk Assessments
Continuous risks assessments are conducted to:
- Identify hazards so that they can be actioned immediately.
- Identify significant risks.
- Gather information to feedback to an issue-based HIRA.
- Gather information to feedback to a baseline HIRA.
Examples of continuous assessments include:
- Critical task observations, or CTOs.
- Occupational health and safety audits.
- Work permits
- Toolbox talks, and several others.
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