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Part of your legal duty as an employer is to maintain a safe working environment. In fact, you can be prosecuted for failing to ensure a safe workplace even when no accident or injury occurs. The prosecution does not have to prove that anyone was actually injured, only that an injury or incident could have occurred.

To help protect your workers – and avoid prosecution – you should implement a risk management system at your workplace. Risk management involves conducting hazard identification and risk assessment, and implementing, monitoring and reviewing control measures to reduce risks to the health and safety of workers and others.

Risk management is necessary to systematically identify hazards at your workplace that could create health and safety risks. It also helps you to take reasonably practicable steps to control the risks and monitor the effectiveness of the control measures.

Taking reasonably practicable steps involves measuring your actions against the standard of behaviour expected of a reasonable person in your position who has the same obligations.

Risk is defined as the likelihood of injury or harm resulting from exposure to a hazard, while a hazard is any situation, substance, activity, event or environment that could potentially cause an injury or illness.

Some hazards pose a significant risk to health and safety, while others pose a relatively low risk. And some industries are more high-risk, than others, such as the construction industry.


During a site inspection, it was found that part of an elevated walkway over a high-speed conveyor had no handrail or guards in place to stop people from falling onto the conveyor or into the lower level bulk storage area below (a fall of 20 metres). The walkway is the usual access point from one part of the building to another and it is likely that a fall could occur. If someone fell onto the high-speed conveyor, a fatality would be the most likely consequence. This is a high-risk hazard and control measures should be prioritised to reduce the risk as much as possible.

Part of risk management is to implement risk controls measures, and to ensure that these measures:

  • are complied with by workers;
  • continue to adequately manage the risks; and
  • do not introduce any other hazards into the workplace.

If a risk is not foreseeable, it will generally not be reasonably practicable to control it.

Reasonably practicable, in relation to health and safety, refers to what is reasonably able to be done when ensuring health and safety, taking into account and weighing all the relevant matters, including:

  1. the likelihood of the hazard or risk occurring;
  2. the degree of harm that may result from the hazard or risk;
  3. what the person concerned knows or ought reasonably to know about:

(i) the hazard or risk; and

(ii) ways of eliminating or minimising the risk;

  1. the availability and suitability of ways to eliminate or minimise the risk; and
  2. the cost associated with available ways of eliminating or minimising the risk, including whether the cost is grossly disproportionate to the risk.


The decision to implement any risk control measures will depend on the gravity of the harm and the cost of the control.

Once a control has been implemented, you must monitor its effectiveness and reassess the risks of the task.


Top stories for Risk Management


‘Hands on’ training didn’t save elderly woman from serious injuries

Workplace Safety

  In a timely reminder of the importance to ensure workers are appropriately trained in your safety systems, a Queensland company as well as one of its officers were recently fined a combined total of $54,000 when a member of […]

By Michael Selinger on December 13th, 2019

Your questions answered: Should we stop using Roundup weedkiller at our workplace?

Risk Management

Q I have been seeing a number of claims in regards to Roundup causing significant health issues. We have been using Roundup (glyphosate) around the building and pathways to manage weeds. Can you provide any advice on whether we should […]

By Portner Press on December 10th, 2019

Could your Christmas party turn into a disaster?

Workplace Safety

  As we approach the end of the year, it is common for businesses to organise an end of year social event for all staff. But to ensure that no one gets hurt and the event is enjoyed by all, […]

By Michael Selinger on December 9th, 2019

Safety failures lead to elderly man freezing to death

Workplace Safety

  In Safework NSW v Proflow Plumbing and Maintenance Pty Limited (2019), a company was convicted and fined $300,000 after an elderly man became trapped and died in a trench it excavated. The District Court of New South Wales found […]

By Portner Press on December 4th, 2019

How much supervision is enough supervision?

Workplace Safety

  How much supervision is enough supervision is a question that challenges organisations of any size when it comes to safety. But how should you make this assessment? The challenge with supervision is that it involves a number of considerations […]

By Portner Press on November 28th, 2019

Your questions answered: What happens if an injured worker failed to wear PPE?

Workplace Safety

Q Could you please advise what obligations and responsibilities employers, supervisors and employees have where an employee is injured due to a failure to wear appropriate Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)? Employees have been provided with the relevant PPE, trained in […]

By Portner Press on November 26th, 2019

Your questions answered: Is there a minimum recommended width for wheelchair ramps?

Workplace Safety

Q I am currently sourcing a portable wheelchair ramp for disabled bowlers at our bowls club, but I am having trouble finding any applicable Australian standards. The only information I have been able to find seems to be for a […]

By Portner Press on November 12th, 2019

Your questions answered: How should we decide on the best protective clothing for outdoor workers?

Workplace Safety

Q Our business employs maintenance people to take care of the grounds and we are currently reviewing the protective work wear for these workers. While we would prefer that when working outdoors they wear long-sleeved shirts to protect themselves from […]

By Portner Press on October 24th, 2019

Your questions answered: Do we have to provide workers with different workwear for hot weather?

Workplace Safety

Q Our store person has a water fountain provided, large floor fan adjacent to their work area, is provided with large sunhats and has a cover over the forklift rollover protection structure, but now, due to a change in climate, […]

By Portner Press on October 17th, 2019

Commission upholds prohibition notice not to remove staff counter

Risk Management

In Sydney Local Health District v SafeWork NSW (2019), Sydney Local Health District (SLHD) applied for an external review of a prohibition notice issued by SafeWork NSW. The prohibition notice blocked SLHD from removing two 1.3-metre-high counters in an intensive […]

By Portner Press on October 10th, 2019