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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: How can we create a WHS Management System?

Workplace Safety

Q How do we create a WHS Management System? Are there any examples or templates we can use? A These will provide a useful starting point for you to develop your policy. Note that a WHS Management System should include: […]

By Portner Press on February 20th, 2020

Can dismissal for a serious safety breach be wrong?

Workplace Safety

  A recent decision of the Fair Work Commission (FWC) has highlighted that even where an employer validly dismisses an employee for a serious safety breach, the dismissal could still be found ‘harsh’ and therefore ‘unfair’. Usually terminating employment for […]

By Michael Selinger on January 30th, 2020

Your questions answered: Why isn’t failure to disclose a pre-existing injury grounds for dismissal?

Workplace Safety

Q Why does a failure of a prospective employee to disclose a pre-existing injury – that may impede the employee’s capacity to safely undertake their full range of duties – not enable an employer to terminate employment on the basis […]

By Portner Press on January 30th, 2020

Your questions answered: Does our company have Chain of Responsibility obligations if we only use a freight forwarder?

Risk Management

Q If our company uses freight forwarders do we still fall under the Chain of Responsibility regulations even though it is not our business? A In short, if a business performs a ‘transport activity’, then it is a party in […]

By Portner Press on January 22nd, 2020

The ‘harmless’ products that could be lethal

Risk Management

  As the new year commences, it is timely to consider the supply chains that your organisation has in place. Not only from a pricing and quality point of view, but from a safety standpoint as well. Over the last […]

By Portner Press on January 22nd, 2020

Employer liable for vulnerable worker’s trauma, court rules

Workplace Safety

  A jewellery retailer has been ordered to pay a worker $270,000 in damages, after a failed snatch and grab attempt left her with a psychiatric injury. The District Court of Queensland found Michael Hill Jeweller negligent for failing to […]

By Portner Press on January 14th, 2020

‘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