Who can carry out a Health and Safety Risk Assessment?
Employers may not be aware how much risk their employees are exposed to when they perform tasks, and this is one of many reasons why risk assessments are crucial. They can identify potential issues which may affect employees before an incident, or an accident occurs.
The goal of the risk assessment is that it is a systematic procedure used to identify any hazards that may pose a threat to the health and safety of employees, contractors, visitors, customers, or the public.
Before exploring the risk assessment scope, the specific environmental concerns, who can carry out a health and safety risk assessment, and what risk analysis involves along with evaluation, and communication, it is imperative to understand what a risk assessment is.
What is a risk assessment?
A risk assessment is a crucial part of the Occupational Health and Safety Management Plan of any organisation. When a proper risk assessment is carried out, hazards and risks can be identified along with the people who may be at risk, and it allows for control measures to be implemented to prevent injury, illness, and even fatality.
Risk assessments identify the hazards in the workplace, evaluate the risks or the likelihood that an incident or accident may occur, what the severity may be, and what can be done to prevent this.
Who is responsible?
The employer is the responsible party as they are tasked with the duty of ensuring that a healthy and safe work environment is provided for all employees. However, this duty may be delegated to a fully trained health and safety competent person such as a health and safety manager, safety officer, or an independent third-party professional.
Despite the person or party carrying out the risk assessment, the process is the same, and it will be explored in the sections below.
Risk Assessment Scope
To ensure that the risk assessment is effective, it is necessary for a thorough scope is determined for the risk assessment. The type of risk assessment being carried out must be relevant and proportionate to the activities. Some common categories of risk assessments include:
- Generic risk assessments
- Substance risk assessments
- Digital and equipment risk assessments
- Manual Handling risk assessments
- Fire risk assessments
During preparation, when determining the scope, it is imperative to ensure that there is access to the right resources such as information sources, industry regulations, and a trained team of individuals to conduct the risk assessment.
During the risk assessment, there is specific criteria which must be developed for the identification and defining of varying levels as well as types of risk including:
- Risk levels
- Acceptable risk
- Combined risks
Some of the following activities are considered hazardous:
- Physical hazards such as trips, slips, falls, noise, vibration.
- Ergonomic hazards such as office settings, manual handling, temperature, and others.
- Biological hazards including bacteria, viruses.
- Chemical hazards such as substances.
History and records
Historical workplace information and records may shed light on common, repetitive risk issues. Documentation on accidents and incidents must be kept and reviewed during the risk assessment process.
Near miss incidents must also be evaluated to find potential ways to prevent them from turning into incidents and accidents.
Intellectual versus practical work
When the workforce primarily engage in either intellectual or virtual activities, there is a lower risk of physical harm. However, there is still risks such as legal liability, so the focus of a risk assessment can be adjusted to be proportionate to the risk.
Practical work involve more physical hazards and risks and thus, the risk assessment must be proportionate to these risks.
Labour versus automation
Work which is labour intensive leans heavily on activities conducted by workers and this inherently increases the risk of potential injuries and accidents. Processes which is driven by equipment, such as automation, minimises the interaction of employees with the equipment.
The risk assessment must keep such factors in consideration as it will affect risk severity, probability, and the control measures to be put in place.
Another factor to consider is that of task complexity. Tasks which are more complex that subsequently require written instruction is likely to be riskier than simpler tasks. Daily activities must be considered and evaluated as complexity arises in numerous factors which could impact the successful outcome of a risk assessment such as:
- Market timing
- Technical feasibility
- Employee performance
- Management communication, and others.
When there are complex tasks involved, the most effective way to implement a safety risk assessment program is to have a team of employees available who are familiar and knowledgeable about the specific industry.
Equipment age and preventative maintenance programmes
Aging equipment will inevitably increase potential risks. Equipment malfunctions and/or breakdowns can interrupt productivity in addition to resulting in potential danger to the safety of employees.
Risk assessments are important for all equipment, but they are more crucial in workplaces using older equipment that need more maintenance. The assessment must evaluate reliability concerns and the ongoing practices where maintenance and repair is concerned.
Specific Environmental Concerns
The work environment is another factor which must be considered during the risk assessment. Some common factors that must be evaluated to determine potential risk includes, but is not limited to:
- Does the organisation deal with hazardous or non-hazardous materials?
- Are activities performed indoors or outdoors?
- Are there various locations or situations that could increase risk?
- How does the time of day affect risk?
- Does the location of the workplace add additional risk?
- What is the level of direct exposure of employees to the point of operation of equipment?
Risk Analysis, Evaluation, and Communication
Information which is collected during the risk assessment must be analysed to identify actionable safety steps. A proper risk analysis works to eliminate, where practicably possible, the highest severity and frequency of risk.
Risks that have the highest severity must be prioritised so that they can be addressed first before risks that are lower concerns.
The ranking and prioritising of risks offer a systematic approach and allow for risk controls to be implemented strategically.
During this, the following can be examined:
- The elimination or substitution of risks associated with materials, equipment, or tasks where possible.
- Design of engineering controls.
- Implementation of administrative controls.
- Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) which is the last resort only if the other controls are not effective.
Once the potential hazards have been identified, risks have been evaluated, and controls have been selected, the next step involves the communication of this information to all employees, visitors, or any person who may be affected by the activities of the organisation.
There must be adequate systems in place for the effective communication of hazards, risks, and the control measures that were put in place. Employees must also know how to apply these measures for safety in their work area.
How does SafetyWallet support its subscribers?
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MAKROSAFE have been assisting clients for more than 23 years with recommendations and risk assessments for a hazard-free environment.
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.
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