Every employer is legally obliged to maintain a safe and healthy work environment. Depending on the kind of business, every organisation has its own unique health and safety system, contingent to the hazards involved. What is important is that your safety and health management system works for your organisation.
But how can organisations monitor, assess and improve their health and safety?
A safe and healthy workplace is only realisable when there is a planned and systematic approach to managing risks. You first need to understand the exposures and safety risks in your workplace and harmful consequences of each. You can then take the necessary steps to eliminate or minimise the health and safety risks following established controls.
Here are some simple strategies for improving your culture of safety.
1. Identify Hazards
You should begin by identifying hazards in the workplace by analysing situations that can be an immediate threat or cause harm over a period of time. You can pick these out from:
Physical work environment
Tasks and how they are performed
Equipment, materials and substances
Work design and management
Some hazards are a result of work processes, including mechanical hazards, toxic substances and noise. Others may result from mechanical and structural failures and chemical spills. A plant may present both mechanical and noise hazards and each of them has to be identified.
2. Assess Risks
Assessing risks is considering what would happen if someone is exposed to a hazard. Risk assessment helps you evaluate potential risks in a workplace, and allows you to determine:
The severity of a risk
Whether existing control measures are effective
How the risk should be controlled
Urgency of action
Risk assessment is conducted when:
It is uncertain how a hazard may cause injury or illness
The work activity presents a number of different hazards
There are workplace changes that may affect the effectiveness of control measures
WHS Regulations stipulate that it is mandatory to conduct a risk assessment for high risk activities such as live electrical work, entry into confined spaces and diving work. There are varying degrees of risk assessment depending on the type of hazards, information, data and resources available. It may involve the use of specific risk analysis tools and techniques, or it may be as simple as a discussion with your workers.
3. Control Risks
Once you identify hazards and risks, control measures need to be put in place. The WHS Act recommends eliminating the risk from the workplace as the best control measure. If this is impossible, risks should be minimised in a reasonably practicable manner.
When laying down controls, you can adopt a single control or a combination of controls that provide the highest level of protection. You should first focus on hazards that present the highest level of risk.
The hierarchy of risk control provides some direction as to suitable control measures.
Hierarchy of Risk Control
Eliminate the hazard
Substitute hazard with something safer
Isolate hazard from people
Reduce risks through engineering controls
Minimise exposure to the hazard using administrative actions
Utilise personal protective equipment
4. Monitor Control Measures
Regularly check that the implemented control measures are effective through:
Meetings and worker feedback
Inspections, observations and walkthroughs
Checklists and audits
Technology such as monitoring alarms
Environmental monitoring such as air quality and noise testing
5. Continuously Improve
Use a Safety and Health Program Assessment Worksheet to review progress.
Review activities to identify new risks.
Investigate incidents as they occur.
Conduct frequent inspections on equipment and processes.
Ensure hazard correction systems are in place.
Evaluate effectiveness of training.
Document all safety efforts.
Engage staff to identify areas of improvement.
To discover how Vault can empower your business with superior workplace health and safety tools, get a demo today.
Risk and Safety Templates
For strategic safety professionals.
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