Risk Management is a process consisting of well-defined steps which, when taken in sequence, support better decision making by contributing to a greater insight into risks and their impacts. It is as much about identifying opportunities as it is about avoiding losses. By adopting effective risk management techniques you can help to improve safety, quality and business performance in your organisation.
The WHS Act and Regulations require persons who have a duty to ensure health and safety to ‘manage risks’ by eliminating health and safety risks so far as is reasonably practicable, and if it is not reasonably practicable to do so, to minimise those risks so far as is reasonably practicable. Persons conducting a business or undertaking will have health and safety duties to manage risks if they:
- Engage workers to undertake work for them, or if they direct or influence work carried out by workers.
- May put other people at risk from the conduct of their business or undertaking.
- Manage or control the workplace or fixtures, fittings or plant at the workplace.
- Design, manufacture, import or supply plant, substances or structures for use at a workplace.
- Install, construct or commission plant or structures at a workplace.
Managing work health and safety risks is an ongoing process that is triggered when any changes affect your work activities. Businesses must be due diligent and work through the steps described when:
- Starting a new business or purchasing a business.
- Changing work practices, procedures or the work environment.
- Purchasing new or used equipment or using new substances.
- Planning to improve productivity or reduce costs.
- New information about workplace risks becomes available.
- Responding to workplace incidents (even if they have caused no injury).
- Responding to concerns raised by workers, health and safety representatives or others at the workplace required by the WHS regulations for specific hazards.
It is also important to use the risk management approach when designing and planning products, processes or places used for work, because it is often easier and more effective to eliminate hazards before they are introduced into a workplace by incorporating safety features at the design stage.
The information below may help you to understand the principles of Risk Management, and practise effective risk management in your workplace.
Effective risk management starts with a commitment to health and safety from those who operate and manage the business or undertaking. You also need the involvement and cooperation of your workers, and if you show your workers that you are serious about health and safety they are more likely to follow your lead.
To demonstrate your commitment, you should:
- Get involved in health and safety issues invest time and money in health and safety.
- Ensure health and safety responsibilities are clearly understood.
A safe and healthy workplace does not happen by chance or guesswork. You have to think about what could go wrong at your workplace and what the consequences could be. Then you must do whatever you can (in other words, whatever is ‘reasonably practicable’) to eliminate or minimise health and safety risks arising from your business or undertaking. This process is known as risk management and involves the four steps
- Identify hazards - find out what could cause harm and assess risks if necessary.
- Assess Risks - understand the nature of the harm that could be caused by the hazard, how serious the harm could be and the likelihood of it happening.
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