Identifying Hazards Before Writing A Safety Management System

A hazard is any activity, situation or substance that can cause harm. This includes a situation where a person’s behaviour may be an actual source of harm to that person or another person. Hazards can: be actual or potential be physical, biological or behavioural, including temporary conditions that can affect a person’s behaviour, such as fatigue, shock, alcohol or drugs arise or be caused within or outside a place of work.

Hazards also include events that cause an employee to be at a greater risk of causing themselves or others in the workplace harm. These events could occur in the workplace or elsewhere. Examples of events that could be identified as hazards are: Continuing events in the workplace, such as: the design of shifts and rosters jobs with inherent stress or pressure seasonal peak workflows, periods of staff shortage, and high requirements for overtime jobs that regularly include long days because of travel before, after or during work. Occasional circumstances where a one-off workplace situation or individual’s reasons need to be considered, such as: periods of restructuring, where employees feel vulnerable or personal relationships are strained after employees are part of, or witness to, a robbery, fire or accident after an employee has suffered a bereavement when there are long-term health problems with an employee or within the employee’s family.

Personal issues affecting an employee, including: impairment caused by alcohol impairment caused by prescription or other drugs, whether legal or illegal, work related stress, fatigue, depression, difficulty coping with a serious family problem or crisis. Hazard Identification Everything in the workplace needs to be looked at as a potential hazard. Methods of hazard identification include: physical inspections of the workplace, equipment and work practices analysis of tasks and how they are carried out by employees in the workplace analysis of processes carried out in the workplace analysis of previous ‘near miss’ incidents. Hazard identification must be systematic and thorough. How you have identified and assessed hazards should be written down and kept as a record to show you are meeting your obligations.

Employers should give employees (i.e. the crew) opportunities to be involved in hazard management processes, including hazard identification. Procedures must be reviewed regularly to ensure new hazards are identified promptly and that hazard identification systems are working efficiently. Managing Hazards Where hazards create a risk of harm to the crew or others, the employer should take all practicable steps to provide a safe and healthy environment. The employer’s responsibility only extends to matters they can reasonably be expected to recognise or be aware of. Every employee shares in the responsibility to recognise and manage problems themselves and this includes handling non-work issues sensibly.

Employers need to ensure there are no hazards to which employees and others in the workplace could be exposed, and have an effective system for identifying existing and new hazards. Employers, in consultation with their employees, should look for hazards in advance as part of their risk management and work planning, so that potential hazards are anticipated and prevented. Hazards need to be assessed to determine whether or not they are significant. The preferred action is to eliminate the hazard, by changing things so that the hazard no longer exists. This might include, for example, relocating equipment or instruments that restrict forward visibility, or replacing a hazardous substance with one that is harmless. If this can’t reasonably be done, isolate the hazard, by putting in place a process or mechanism that keeps employees away from the hazard. This might include: permanently fixing a guard to cover a dangerous part of a particular machine fitting an acoustic enclosure around noisy machinery; or putting a releasable door catch inside a freezer. If this can’t be done, the hazard must be minimised, by doing what can be done to lessen the likelihood of harm being caused by the hazard and to protect employees. This might include: providing employees with suitable protective clothing or equipment monitoring employees’ exposure to the hazard with their informed consent, monitoring employees’ health in relation to the hazard.

The way in which a hazard is controlled may not necessarily be physical. It may be a rule of practice designed to reduce the risk from the hazard. It is necessary to ensure that once hazard controls are put in place they stay in place and are used. It is also necessary to provide a feedback mechanism for ensuring whether or not the controls are adequate and responsibilities are understood by all. Hazard controls that are common to all hazards (and therefore need to be addressed in order to meet your obligations) include: employee participation in the development of health and safety procedures an information system to ensure employees are informed about and understand the risks from hazards they work with an accident reporting and investigation system regular surveys of the workplace, supplemented by the use of hazard notices where applicable responsibilities being assigned to ensure hazard controls are implemented and remain effective an audit system for checking that the controls for specific hazards are in place and working an adequate training programme and adequate supervision for all staff implementing emergency procedures to limit the consequences of an emergency.

Significant Hazards

Significant hazards are required to be managed. Hazards that aren’t significant need to be noted and re-examined in the future as necessary, to re- assess whether they have become significant as time has passed. A significant hazard is one that is an actual or potential cause, or source of one or more of the following: Serious Harm This includes death and many occupational illnesses and injuries that can occur in a place of work. Harm, the severity of which may depend on how often or how long a person is exposed to the hazard This harm must be more than trivial and includes such things as occupational overuse syndrome. Harm that cannot be detected until a significant time after exposure This includes diseases caused by exposure to hazardous substances, such as asbestosis, neurotoxicity, emphysema, and other occupational diseases. The assessment of whether a hazard is significant or not is effectively a matter for the judgement of the employer (and should involve discussion with employees). If you identify a hazard and then judge that it is not significant, you should record the reasons why you believe it is not significant, and specify when you will re-look at the hazard to ensure it hasn’t become significant over time.

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