August 3, 2018

Hazards and Risks are like Sharks – Here’s How

Assessing risks: where do you start?
Assessing hazards and risks is a key component of ensuring workplace health and safety. An important part of any successful risk management process in the workplace is to have a method that assesses hazards and mitigates against probable risks. A root cause analysis, which observes incidents that happen in the workplace, are often used to identify why and how the failure of managing risks or hazards occurred.
Firstly, here is a simple analogy to illustrate the difference between a Hazard and a Risk:
A Hazard is the shark we see as we stand on the beach.
A Risk is what the shark becomes once we enter the water.
Like seeing a shark, some hazards and risks are relatively easy to spot and easy to forecast. If you were going to be working in or near the ocean, sharks would definitely be a hazard or risk that you could expect to encounter! Some hazards in the workplace are also easy to predict and some are easy to fix on the spot, such as poor housekeeping, or a team member either not wearing the prescribed Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for the task or wearing the incorrect PPE for the task. These hazards can be fixed as soon as they are discovered. Similarly, the risk of having workers slip, trip, or fall on loose objects or tools can easily and quickly be eliminated by having a tidy and organised work area.
One form of risk assessment that takes the immediate work environment into account is the STAR (Stop-Take-Time-To-Assess-Risk) card or Take Five card or other similar pocket note-book checklists or apps which make workers survey their environment and do a quick “real-time risk assessment” before they start work. This should identify any hazards not recognised beforehand and prevent any unexpected hazards in the workplace from becoming a greater risk to health or safety, thereby possibly preventing a workplace incident.
These mini risk assessments can be completed alone or as a team and are often completed again after breaks and when situations change, such as when another workgroup enters the work area. As well as modelling good safety behaviour, they present a great opportunity for team leaders and supervisors to express the importance of safety.
Key questions to ask yourself when conducting a risk assessment
Before a task starts that is considered high-risk work, several hazard and risk assessments should already have been completed. Work Health and Safety (WHS) Legislation stipulates that all foreseeable hazards must be identified and that the risks arising from these hazards must be eliminated or controlled. Risk management is a legal requirement for all businesses and requires that the management of the workplace address the following four questions:
  1. Hazard Identification: What hazards exist in our workplace?
  2. Risk Assessment: How severely could the hazards harm someone and what would the consequence?
  3. Risk Control: What do we have in place to control these hazards?
  4. Risk Review: How do we know that these controls are effective?
To further identify and address hazards, organisations need to:
  • Investigate all incidents and near misses to determine the causes of the incidents and the underlying hazards and their causes
  • Identify any trends in reported hazards and incidents
  • Perform regular workplace inspections to identify new or recurring hazards
  • Collect and review information about the hazards in the workplace
  • Determine the severity and likelihood of incidents that could result for each identified hazard and use this information to prioritise actions
Some of the risk and hazard assessments that can be conducted to further address hazards and risks in the workplace are:
  • HAZOP: Hazard and Operability study
  • HAZID: Hazard Identification assessment
  • Safety in Design Assessment (SiD): An engineering assessment of the design of a new piece of plant or equipment of which the intent is to design safer pieces of plant or equipment
  • CHAZOP: Construction Hazard and Operability study
  • SWMS: Safe Work Method Statement
  • JSEA: Job Safety Environmental Analysis
  • THA: Task Hazard Analysis (the step-by-step breakdown of all the tasks involved in the work and the corresponding controls that need to be put in place to manage the hazards)
  • Bow-Tie Risk Analysis: Bow-tie diagram which is used to show the links between potential causes and consequences of a major event occurring, plus the corresponding preventative and mitigating controls
  • RRRT: Residual Risk Rating Tool (used to determine the residual risk – RRR = Severity Factor x Likelihood factor. The numerical rating applied to a risk calculated as the product of a severity factor and a likelihood factor)
  • CRAW: Construction Risk Assessment Workshop (completed at the planning stage of a construction project)

Gaynor Renz
WHSE Compliance and Risk Expert, WorkPac/BHP

Gaynor has a strong background in WHS, Risk, and Compliance, with many years in mining, construction, fabrication, and utilities (electricity), and prior to that, a solid background in compliance and leadership positions in the education and training sector. She has a Bachelor’s degree in Education, Diploma in Work Health and Safety, Cert IV in WHS and Training and Assessment, and a Graduate Diploma in Social Psychology of Risk (SPoR) completed with Dr. Rob Long in Canberra. She continues to study SPoR in Master Classes held by the Centre for Leadership and Learning and Risk (CLLR). Currently, she is working in multi-million dollar mining projects as a WHS and Risk Consultant.

You can follow Gaynor on LinkedIn >

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