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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


Your questions answered: Do our ladders need additional fall restrictors?

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Q We recently purchased three platform ladders to work on aircraft. One of these platforms is at three metres. It has a barrier on three sides and a dropdown barrier on the entry of the platform. Do we need to […]

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‘Work Shouldn’t Hurt’ survey paints grim picture of workplace health and safety in Australia

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Your questions answered: Is a walkie stacker the same as a forklift in WHS terms?

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By Portner Press on August 20th, 2019

Spotlight fined $150,000 for OHS breaches

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Your questions answered: What should we include in our driver safety policy?

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Q Our NSW-based organisation wants to draft a driver safety policy to help eliminate or minimise risks to our workers’ health and safety from driving-related accidents and injuries. The reason behind this is because our workers travel regularly to Queensland […]

By Portner Press on July 26th, 2019

Your questions answered: What should we include in our company’s health and safety policy?

Workplace Safety

Q What should we include in a health and safety policy for a sales and marketing environment? Our employees work in NSW in the office and visit customers’ locations selling our products and services. A The following matters should be […]

By Portner Press on July 25th, 2019

Falls from heights still an ongoing safety problem PCBUs must address

Workplace Safety

Falls from heights continues to be one of the most active areas for prosecutions across Australia. It is critical that organisations consider where their workers may face this risk, as well as ensuring controls are implemented to eliminate the potential […]

By Portner Press on July 18th, 2019

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Workplace Safety

Q I represent an organisation that works in the public sector. Are there standards, legislation and/or protocols to follow regarding the possibility of needing to provide syringe disposal in our public toilets for our potential clients and clients who may […]

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Your questions answered: What are the legal obligations surrounding the use of dogs in the workplace?

Workplace Safety

Q   We are looking at using dogs to detect termites. We will be transporting them to jobs within our vehicles and at times they will be required to be at our workplace. What are the legal and safety requirements […]

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