The first step in the risk management process is to establish the risk management context within the scope of work to be performed. The methodology for conducting the risk analysis should be defined and criteria for determining whether risks are acceptable or unacceptable are to be established.
Definitions – Hazard and Risk
In risk management there is often confusion with the terminology that is used. Hazard and risk are often used interchangeably. However, it is important to be clear in the definitions of these terms.
Hazard: A source or situation with potential for harm
Risk: The potential for a hazard to cause harm
Risk Factors: Are the things that can increase the potential/likelihood for injury or harm
1. Identifying hazards
Comprehensive identification of hazards is the key to effective risk management. If a hazard has not been identified, then the risk associated with the hazard cannot be addressed. Identifying hazards means looking at your workplace and the tasks that you complete, and identifying those things that have the potential to harm. Hazards are not always obvious; therefore a structured and systematic process should be used to generate a comprehensive list of hazards.
Examples of HAZARDS
Physical Hazards noise, vibration, falling objects, slips, trips and falls, sharp objects or edges, moving objects or vehicles
Chemical Hazards chemicals, solvents, cleaning agents, fuels and oils, LPG, acetylene, asbestos, pesticides, glues, dusts, lead
Electrical Hazards power cords, double adaptors, faulty equipment, live wires
Biological Hazards bacteria, Legionella, hepatitis, viruses, infected blood, insects, spiders, snakes, contaminated food or water
Radiation welding, lasers, sun exposure, UV radiation, infrared, radio frequency
Thermal Hazards hot surfaces, steam, hot fluids, heat exhaustion, cold surfaces, freezers, compressed gases
Ergonomics lifting or moving heavy or awkward objects, cramped working conditions, poor workstation or workplace design, inadequate lighting, inadequate ventilation, repetitive tasks, fatigue
2. Analysing Risks
Once you have identified all the hazards in your workplace, it is then necessary to analyse these hazards to determine the risks. However, before doing this it is often helpful to review the list of identified hazards. The purpose of this review is to:
- Control the hazards where the solution is obvious and easily implemented (eg. Relocating power cords, fixing faulty equipment). This process does not always eliminate the hazard – it may still need to be considered for further assessment.
- Identify those hazards that are controlled by legislation, standards or codes of practice. In some cases there is a specific way that certain hazards must be controlled. Alternatively, there may be industry standards or codes of practice that present the “best practice” approach to controlling the hazards.
The level of risk should be determined by considering each of the following areas:
Consequence Identify the most likely outcome of a potential accident
Exposure Estimate how often an individual interacts with the hazard
Probability Estimate the likelihood that the consequences will occur once the individual is exposed to the hazard
Once the level of risk has been determined, a decision needs to be made as to whether the risk is acceptable or unacceptable. If a risk is determined to be acceptable then no further treatment of the risk is required – it does not indicate that the risk is insignificant. Recent legislation both to Australia and internationally, requires that risk be reduced to “as low as reasonably practicable” (often referred to as ALARP principal). In considering whether risk is as low as reasonably practicable consideration is given to;
- Good industry practice
- Compliance with recognized standards
- State of knowledge about the hazard and ways of removing the hazard or reducing the risk
- Availability and suitability of ways to remove the hazard or reduce the risk
- Cost of removing the hazard or reducing the risk
3. Controlling the Hazard and/or Reducing the Risk
If a risk is determined to be unacceptable then the hazards need to be treated. In most cases, there are a number of different options available for treating hazards.
Hierarchy of Control
Treatment options at the top of the hierarchy are most effective in reducing the risk.
Eliminate: Modify the process method or material to eliminate the hazard completely.
Substitute: Replace the material, substance or process with a less hazardous one.
Redesign: Redesign or modify the plant or work process to reduce or eliminate the risk.
Separate: Isolate the hazard from persons by safeguarding or by space or time.
Administrate: Adjust the exposure time or conditions or the process by training, procedures, signs etc.
Personal Protective Equipment:Use appropriately designed and properly fitting equipment where other controls are not practicable or residual are unacceptable.
4. Implementing Controls
Once a decision has been made on which control measures are the most effective, steps need to be taken to implement these controls. Activities that might need to be conducted to ensure effective implementation include:
- Developing work procedures
- Designing or modifying existing plant
- Communication and training
- Design and implement monitoring measures
- Supervision and Review
5. Monitor and Review Risks
An essential part of risk management is the continual monitoring and review of risks.
Areas that should be considered are:
- Have control measures been implemented within the time frames as planned?
- Are the control measures being used and used correctly?
- Have the implemented control measures been effective in reducing the risk?
- Has the risk been reduced enough?
Have the control measures introduced any new problems – new hazards or risks; operational, production, or maintenance problems?