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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.

Example

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.

MAINTAINING RISK CONTROLS

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.

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