What is a Risk Assessment in Occupational Health and Safety (OHS)?



The core principles associated with a risk assessment process in addition with the legal requirements of why organisations go through this important task, is common territory to seasoned health and safety professionals and larger organisations.

However, there are numerous smaller organisations that may not fully grans that they have a responsibility to ensure the health and safety of all employees and visitors, and that they must drive compliance relating to health and safety within the operations of the organisation.

The Occupational Health and Safety Act, 85 of 1993 requires that each employer provide a workplace which is safe and without risk to the health of employees, with further guidance offered on how employers can achieve this.

Risk assessment in Occupational Health and Safety involves the fundamentals which are ingrained in the Act to assist employers in achieving their duties towards the health and safety of employees, and any other persons who may be affected by the organisation’s activities.


Hazard Identification

This is a crucial first step in the risk assessment process. It involves an evaluation of the working environment to identify any task, equipment, workplace condition, or any other factor, which has the potential to cause harm.

Hazards can be classified according to eight distinct groups to further assist in identifying all the associated hazards. These eight groups are:

  • Physical – noise, vibrations, trip, slip, and fall hazards, amidst others.
  • Mechanical – moving parts, exposed parts, and others.
  • Electrical – poor wiring, unprotected electrical outlets, overloading strips and outlets, failure to de-energise devices before working on them, and several others.
  • Ergonomic – manual handling, lack of adequate illumination, noise, heat, vibration, incorrect postures, and others.
  • Biological – mold, fungi, sewage, airborne pathogens, and others.
  • Chemical – paints, drugs, cleaning chemicals, degreasers, and several others.
  • Behavioural – taking shortcuts, non-compliance, unsafe acts, using homemade equipment or quick-fixes, and others.
  • Psychological – stress, bullying, violence, burnout, harassment, victimisation, and others.

Risk Evaluation

This requires that the risks associated with each of the hazards which were identified in the first step be evaluated. This is done by considering the “worst-case scenario” approach where no control measures are assumed to be in place to reduce the risk of harm.

Risk is typically calculated by scoring it against risk-related factors such as the possible severity which may result from harm, the probability that harm will occur, and the possible exposure of employees, machines, equipment, infrastructure, or the environment.

This subsequently provides the organisation with a risk rating and/or a pure-risk score which provides guidance when decisions are made on the control measures that must be implemented to reduce the risk.


Control Measures

These are not equal when reducing the risk relating to workplace hazards according to each type of control that will provide varying effectiveness. An important consideration when control measures are selected relates to the requirements of Section 8 of OHSA.

This section requires for the employer to eliminate or mitigate hazards to the health and/or safety of employees before using Personal Protective Equipment, which is the last resort after all other control measures have been exhausted and/or prove to be ineffective.

In addition, the requirements, as stipulated by the regulations, relating to the work being performed, must be considered when deciding on and implementing control measures. This ensures that the overall risk assessment process drives legal compliance associated with health and safety in the workplace.

Risk to health and/or safety of employees is inevitable, however, by making sue of the guidance provided by OHSA and all other regulations, and by applying the fundamentals of the risk assessment process within the organisation, it can save lives in addition to reducing the overall severity of the consequences that risks may have.


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.



Posted date: 12th May 2021
Blogs - Health-and-Safety-Risk-Assessment