Managing the Risk of Injury in the Workplace

Managing risk doesn't happen by itself, it requires a lot of planning, implementation, and review. Risk management also requires resources, so management must be willing to contribute, otherwise there is no point.

It all begins with a Health & Safety Management System. This system has five basic steps:

  1. Policy: A very clear and strong statement which establishes H&S as a prime objective at all levels of the organization, but primarily at the very top.
    • General Statement of Intent: stating organization's philosophy on H&S.
    • The organization's chain of command, identifying roles and responsibilities.
    • The arrangements: who is going to do what.
  2. Organizing: Outlining the roles and responsibilities of everyone in the organization, from top management to the shop floor. In other words, who is going to do what.
  3. Planning and Implementing: Completing a Risk Assessment (see below). It involves "how things will be done" e.g. what procedures will be in place for the various work activities in the workplace.
  4. Evaluation: Periodically everything must be reviewed. For example, are staff doing what they are suppose to be doing? Are workers following proper procedures? Have accident rates decreased?
  5. Action for Improvement: Making adjustments or corrections that have become obvious. This is necessary in order to keep things on track.
  6. Audit: It is a good idea to have an external source audit a workplace. The advantages of an external source is that they will not be influenced by friends in the workplace, they will be able to observe things more objectively.

Risk Assessment

The backbone to managing risk. It involves looking at all aspects of the work environment and at the work processes. There are five steps to performing a risk assessment:

  1. Identify hazards: e.g. excessive dust in the workplace.
  2. Decide on who might be harmed: e.g. everyone in the immediate area.
  3. Evaluate the risks (the likelihood of an accident happening) and decide on precautions.
  4. Record the findings and implement steps to reduce the risks.
  5. Review and update as needed.

How to Manage Risk

There are several ways to manage risk. Sometimes this is refereed to as the Hierarchy of Risk Management, as this list should be followed in order. If one option is not appropriate then you move to the next option.

  1. Eliminate the process or the product e.g. outsource a process.
  2. Evaluate it
  3. Combat at the source: reduce noise throughout the plant.
  4. Adopt work equipment to the worker's needs e.g. height of work tables.
  5. Use technology (e.g. lifting machines instead of manual lifting).
  6. Replace with non-dangerous products, or less dangerous.
  7. Collective over individual protection e.g. reduce dust levels throughout the plant, rather than individuals wearing masks.
  8. Use personal protective equipment (PPEs).
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