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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


PCBU convicted and fined for challenging on-the-spot penalty

Workplace Safety

If you receive a relatively minor penalty for a clear health and safety law breach, it’s probably easier to simply pay up and shut up. DSD Builders Pty Ltd discovered this after it received an on-the-spot penalty for failing to […]

By Portner Press on May 9th, 2019

Your questions answered: What are the policies and procedures relating to dangerous goods?

Risk Management

Q We store and transport some dangerous goods, including pressurised containers and hazardous liquids. Can you please provide some insight as to the requirements of the policies and procedures for these? A The nature of the policies and procedures will […]

By Portner Press on April 26th, 2019

Supermarket fined $600K after apprentice slips on sausage meat

Risk Management

In Paul v Ashcroft Supa IGA Orange Pty Ltd (2019) a worker sued the supermarket for breaching its duty of care in a 2012 incident when he was working there as an apprentice butcher.

By Portner Press on April 18th, 2019

Abattoir fined $95K for avoidable forklift injury

Workplace Safety

One obvious workplace hazard many businesses are still failing to address is forklift safety. Last month, Victorian abattoir Midfield Meat International Pty Ltd was fined $95,000 after a fifth forklift accident in the state this year. In this incident, the […]

By Portner Press on April 12th, 2019

Your questions answered: Is Bluetooth enough, or do we need hands-free kits too?

Workplace Safety

Q: Is Bluetooth enough, or do we need hands-free kits too?

By Portner Press on April 4th, 2019

Your questions answered: What is the difference between a safe operating procedure and a job safety analysis?

Workplace Safety

Q: Could you please provide a clear explanation of the difference between a safe operating procedure and a job safety analysis?

By Portner Press on April 2nd, 2019

Swim school fined $150,000 after diving accident leaves girl paralysed

Risk Management

A Victorian swim school has been convicted and fined $150,000 following a diving accident which left a 12-year-old girl quadriplegic.

By Portner Press on March 29th, 2019

Your questions answered: What is the best protective clothing for outdoor workers?

Workplace Safety

Q: What is the best protective clothing for outdoor workers?

By Portner Press on March 28th, 2019

Your questions answered: How do we create a driving safety policy?

Workplace Safety

  Q My organisation, based in NSW, has asked me to draft a Driving Safety Policy in order to set policy parameters that will eliminate or minimise risks to individuals’ health and safety from driving-related accidents and injuries. Some of […]

By Portner Press on March 19th, 2019

Contractor liable for improperly secured work structure

Risk Management

A judgment in a Victorian Magistrate’s Court has highlighted the need for employers to seek engineering solutions when the risk indicates such a control is needed.

By Michael Selinger on February 15th, 2019