There are no fixed rules about how the risk assessment should be under taken. The following steps could be used as guidance.
Step 1: Initiating the HIRA and selecting the approach
Two principles should be taken in consideration before an assessment is carried out:
- Structure the assessment to ensure that all relevant hazards and risks are addressed. This should be done to ensure that tasks like night security that might take place ‘‘out'' of working hours, is not overlooked.
- When a hazard is identified, the first option should always be to eliminate it first.
A number of approaches (and combinations thereof) to risk assessment can be adopted to perform the HIRA.
The approaches to risk assessment at work which are used are normally based upon:
- Observation of the workplace environment (e.g. means of access, conditions of floors; machinery safety; dust and fumes, temperature, lighting; noise; etc.)
- Identification of tasks carried out at the workplace (to identify all tasks so that they are all included in risk assessment).
- Consideration of tasks carried out at the workplace (evaluation of risks from the different tasks).
- Observation of work in progress (check that procedures are as laid down or predicted, and that there are no other risks arising).
- Consideration of patterns of work (to access exposure to hazards).
- Consideration of external factors that could affect the workplace (e.g. weather consideration for outdoor workers).
- Review of psychological, social and physical factors which might contribute to stress at work, how they interact together and with other factors in the workplace organization and environment.
- Consideration of organization to maintain conditions, including safeguards (e.g. that systems are in place to assess risks from new plant, materials and so on to update information on risks).
Step 2: Identify the hazards
The importance of this element cannot be over emphasised. It is by far the most important element of the risk assessment process and should be performed in a systematic manner.
During the phycical assessment or after the assessment
The adoption of some systematic way of allowing relevant persons to ‘'see'' or ‘‘spot'' the hazards present in the workplace.
If the hazard identification is not carried out carefully, the subsequent analysis of risk and the development of risk control measures become pointless. The identification of hazards is not only an essential part of the risk assessment process, but also acts very effectively to change the way people think, causing them to act more safely and so become more proactive in hazard awareness. When you work in a place every day it is easy to overlook some hazards. There are many techniques and tools that can be used as part of the hazard identification process, here are some tips to help you identify the ones that matter:
- Observation - walk around your workplace and look at what could reasonably be expected to cause harm.
- Communication - ask your employees what they think. They may have noticed things that are not immediately obvious to you.
- Information - check ‘‘manufacturers'' instructions or MSDS for chemicals and equipment as they can be very helpful in spelling out the hazards and putting them in their true perspective.
- Records - Have a look at your incident and sickness records – these often help to identify the less obvious hazards.
- Visit relevant Websites to gain information. Increasingly, the internet is a valuable means of gathering international data. All this data needs to be assimilated and converted into a useful format to prepare the team who undertakes risk assessment.
- Calling legal your labour inspector at the labour centre.
- Consultation with the workplace health and safety committee and representatives.
- Brainstorm ideas and group under appropriate risk headings. Consider the effects on people (staff, students and other people), information, physical assets and finances, reputation. Write the final list onto the table (risk assessment summary).
- Data from health surveillance programme.
- Consulting with subject matter experts or consultants.
- SABS codes and standards.
- Minimum standard legislation.
- Analyse specific scenarios, this is mostly a preventative method used for the identification of hazards and is performed by stating or picturing certain possibilities or scenarios and then breaking it down, examining and studying the possibly outcome of the event or activity.
Remember to think about long-term hazards to health (e.g. high levels of noise or exposure to harmful substances) as well as safety hazards.
Step 3: Identify all parties affected by the hazard and determine how they can be affected
Next you need to identify who might be harmed; it will help you identify the best way of managing the risk. That doesn't mean listing everyone by name, but rather identifying groups of people (e.g. people working in the storeroom or kitchen). In each case, identify how they might be harmed, e.g. what type of injury or ill health might occur.
Pay particular attention to vulnerable people.
- Some workers might be more vulnerable like new and young workers, new or expectant mothers and people with disabilities, lone workers.
- Cleaners, visitors, contractors, maintenance workers etc, who may not be in the workplace all the time.
- Members of the public, if they could be hurt by your activities.
- If you share your workplace, you will need to think about how your work affects others present.
- As well as how their work affects your staff – talk to them; and ask your staff if they can think of anyone you may have missed.
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