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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


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

Your questions answered: What are our obligations regarding disposal of syringes?

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 […]

By Portner Press on July 5th, 2019

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 […]

By Portner Press on July 2nd, 2019

Safe Work Australia to consult with businesses about new international chemical classification

Risk Management

Nearly all workplaces will have some form of hazardous chemicals under their control, and the importance of correctly labelling them cannot be underestimated. Since 2017, the Globally Harmonised System of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals (GHS) has been transitioned into […]

By Michael Selinger on June 18th, 2019

Your questions answered: What constitutes working from home?

Workplace Safety

Q We are a very flexible business. However, due to our focus on health and safety, we have looked into policies regarding our staff working from home. We now realise that we cannot be as casual about it as we […]

By Portner Press on June 18th, 2019

Your questions answered: Is a walkie stacker just as dangerous as a forklift?

Workplace Safety

Q We use a walkie stacker at our workplace, and we are considering whether to put in place a physical barrier to stop pedestrians from entering the area where the walkie stacker is in operation. However, some in the organisation […]

By Portner Press on June 13th, 2019

Your questions answered: What are our reporting obligations for hazardous materials?

Risk Management

Q What are our reporting obligations to SafeWork NSW and/or the Environment Protection Authority (EPA) in relation to hazardous materials and substances (e.g. lead and hydrocarbons) found at our workplace? A Chapter 7 of the Work Health and Safety Regulation […]

By Portner Press on May 28th, 2019

Employer receives $330,000 in fines for fatal fall

Risk Management

Falls from height are one of the deadliest health and safety risks that employers are continually failing to address. This time, the director of a Victorian company has found himself in court for not taking obvious precautions that would have […]

By Portner Press on May 24th, 2019

Your questions answered: How do we ensure that our workers’ working from home conditions are safe?

Workplace Safety

Q We have a few employees working from home (in administration and IT) in other states and in remote locations. Could you please advise what procedures we are required to have in place to meet health and safety requirements? A […]

By Portner Press on May 23rd, 2019

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