Workplace Hazard Management
The employers general duty of care to ‘provide a workplace that is safe and without risk to health’ is difficult to achieve. How much is enough to satisfy the requirements of the legislation? If there is an accident in the workplace, does it mean that we do not have a safe workplace and do not comply with the Legislative requirements?
These are the questions that employers have to consider. At the end of the day a business has to remain profitable to stay viable. There has to be a balance between profitability and continuous improvement in the management of safety.
The Act does not say that a workplace has to free of risks. We all know that this is an impossible situation and work cannot take place under such restrictions. The Act states that risks must be managed ‘as far as practicable’. In other words, risks have to be managed to the extent that there are minimised, and any remaining tasks meet community standards and are acceptable to the organisation.
To assist employers in meeting their OHS obligations, there are some tried and true methods of minimising risk. These are the processes of Hazard identification, Risk Assessment and Control of Risk. When properly implemented, these processes from the basis of all OHS management and assist employers to substantially comply with all OHS requirements.
What is a Hazard?
A hazard is any situation, in a workplace, which has the potential to cause injury or adversely affect the health of a worker.
Hazards can be categorised in many ways, however the most basic categorisation is that of ACUTE and CHRONIC hazards.
Acute Hazards can be described as those that will cause immediate injury. Examples of acute hazards include flammable liquids, which may explode, a damaged floor which may be a trip hazard or a heavy weight which may strain a back.
Chronic Hazards are those which can cause injury or disease over an extended period of time. These include back injuries caused by using poorly designed office furniture over long periods. Cancer caused by regular and extended exposure to carcinogenic chemicals. Infertility caused by extended exposure to Microwave radiation. Cancer caused by continual exposure to high levels of radiation.
You will note that both types of hazards can be deadly. We often overlook the chronic hazards because their recognition and affects usually requires some specialist knowledge.
Physical Non-Mechanical Hazards
- Ergonomic hazards including manual handling
- Electrical shock and burns
- Slipping, tripping and falling hazards
- Falling objects
- High pressure fluid
- High temperature objects
- Working in very hot or cold conditions
Physical Mechanical Hazards
- “Drawing in” points
- Shearing points
- Impact and crushing areas
- Cutting areas
- Entanglement areas
- Stabbing pints
- Abrasion areas
- Flying particles
- Any protrusions which could cause injury
- Workplace environment
- Work pressure
- Lack of social contact
- Low self esteem
It is very important to expand your knowledge relating to the identification of hazards. The success of any OHS program depends on the participant’s ability to able to identify a broad range of hazards.