5 Steps to Effectively Manage Workplace Risks

Managing workplace risk is a fundamental responsibility for employers, and it involves a systematic approach that includes hazard identification, risk assessment, risk control, record-keeping, and regular reviews. By identifying potential dangers, assessing risks, and implementing controls, employers can create a secure environment for their employees. 

Step 1: Identifying Hazards

Hazards are potential sources of harm in the workplace. Employers must consider various factors, including how people work, equipment usage, chemicals, work practices, and the overall condition of the premises. 

Additionally, accident and health records can offer insights into less obvious hazards, while non-routine operations like maintenance, cleaning, or changes in production cycles should also be taken into account. Identifying hazards to health, such as manual handling, chemical use, and work-related stress, is essential. For each hazard, employers should contemplate how it might harm employees, contractors, visitors, or the public.

Step 2: Assessing the Risks

After identifying hazards, the next step is assessing the risks associated with each hazard. This involves determining the likelihood of harm and the severity of potential consequences. Employers need to answer questions such as:

  • Who might be harmed and how?
  • What existing measures are in place to control the risks?
  • What further actions are required to minimize these risks?
  • Who is responsible for implementing these actions?
  • What is the deadline for implementing these actions?

Step 3: Controlling the Risks

Controlling risks is the crux of workplace risk management. Employers should start by evaluating their current safety measures and controls. They need to explore options like eliminating the hazard, redesigning tasks, replacing materials or equipment, reorganising work processes, and providing personal protective equipment if needed. 

It is important to understand that you are not expected to completely eliminate all risks, the goal is to do everything that is ‘reasonably practicable’ to protect people from harm. This involves balancing the level of risk against the measures required in terms of cost, time, and effort.

Step 4: Recording Findings

For employers with five or more employees, recording significant findings is a legal requirement. These records should include:

  • A list of identified hazards
  • Information about who might be harmed and how
  • Details about the measures in place to control risks

While there are risk assessment templates available, it is vital not to rely solely on paperwork. The primary focus should always be on practical risk control.

Step 5: Reviewing the Controls

Risk management is an ongoing process that needs regular reviews. Employers must ensure that the controls they have implemented remain effective. It is also essential to consider reviews in the following situations:

  • When existing controls are no longer effective
  • When there are changes in the workplace, such as staff, processes, substances, or equipment
  • If employees report problems or if accidents or near misses occur
  • Any changes made as a result of these reviews should be updated in the risk assessment records.

By following these steps and taking into account the needs of all workers, employers can create a safer and healthier working environment for everyone. Workplace safety is not just a legal obligation, it is an ethical imperative that promotes the well-being of employees and the success of the organisation.

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