The core principles of a risk assessment process and the legal requirements behind why businesses go through this important task will be familiar to seasoned health and safety professionals and larger organisations. However, many companies do not fully understand that they have a responsibility to ensure the safety of all staff and visitors as well as to drive compliance in relation to health and safety within the business operations.
The Occupational Health and Safety Act 85 of 1993 requires every employer to provide a workplace which is safe and without risk to the health of employees with further guidance provided on how this can be achieved. Most of the fundamentals of the risk assessment process are ingrained in the Act to assist the employer in achieving his duties towards the health and safety of employees and others who might be affected;
Hazard identification – is the essential first step of the process and is an evaluation of the working environment to identify any task, equipment, workplace condition etc. with the potential to cause harm. Hazards can be classified into 8 groups to further assist in identifying all of the associated hazards such as; Physical, Mechanical, Electrical, Ergonomic, Biological, Chemical, Behavioral and Psychological hazards.
Risk evaluation – requires the risks associated with each of the hazards identified in the first step to be evaluated. This is done by taking a ‘’worst case scenario’’ approach where no control measures are assumed to be in place to reduce the risk of harm. Risk is often calculated by scoring against risk related factors such as the possible severity of harm, the probability of the harm occurring and the possible exposure of people or the environment. This provides the organisation with a risk rating / pure risk score which provides guidance when deciding on control measures to reduce the risk.
Control measures – are not all equal when reducing the risk relating to workplace hazards with each type of control providing varying effectiveness. An important point to note when selecting control measures are the requirements of Section 8 of the Act which are for the employer to eliminate or mitigate hazards to the safety and health of employees before resorting to personal protective equipment. Furthermore, the requirements of the regulations relating to the work being performed must be considered when deciding and implementing control measures to ensure that the overall risk assessment process drives legal compliance relating to health and safety in the workplace.
Risks to health and safety of employees is inevitable in the fast paced and constantly evolving workplace of the 21st century, however, utilizing the guidance of the OHS Act and regulations and applying the fundamentals of the risk assessment process within your organisation can save lives. Start the process today and reap the benefits of creating a safe and legally compliant workplace.
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