You’ve gone through a risk assessment, and now it’s time to choose your hazard control measures. What factors should you consider when determining which hazard control measures would work best for your organisation?
Safe Work Australia recommends that you start by looking at the codes of practice and guidance material; information from manufacturers and suppliers of plant, substances and equipment that you use and reference materials from industry associations and unions.
For this article, we discuss how to develop hazard control measures to ensure that they are effective and provide suggestions on how to successfully implement them.
The Importance of Hazard Control Measures
Hazard control measures are a critical tool to prevent workplace accidents and injuries. They should form part of your organisation’s health and safety plan to ensure a method to identify hazards to control them as far as practicable, and to reduce the risks present in your workplace.
Critically, by developing hazard control measures, there are several benefits for your business, including:
- Identifying employees who undertake high-risk activities. Awareness of who is most at risk and how and when they are at risk of exposure encourages processes to mitigate or eliminate them.
- Noting hazards where you can’t eliminate risks encourages you to reduce and minimise exposure and train on what to look out for to address them.
- Continual assessment of the risks that hazards pose allows you to determine whether the control methods you apply are effective in reducing or eliminating the risks. When they fall short, it’s time to re-evaluate.
- Hazard control measures and risk assessments will reduce or eliminate the number of accidents or injuries in your workplace.
- Your WHS legal obligations require you to identify risks and implement hazard control measures. Failure to do so can result in severe corporate and personal fines, in addition to incarceration depending on the severity, prior knowledge, and casualties due to a workplace fatality or serious injury.
See our article, Do You Meet Your OHS Obligations?
8 Things to Consider When Developing Hazard Control Measures
When choosing hazard control measures to manage workplace risk there are eight things to consider.
- Assess the likelihood of the risk associated with each hazard to cause injury or illness.
- Investigate the degree of harm that would result if you expose employees to the hazard.
- Consult with your employees to determine what they know about the hazard and ways to eliminate or reduce the risk.
- Select one or more controls that provide the highest level of protection for people and is the most reliable. Use the safety hierarchy of controls to guide you and try to only choose Administrative Controls and PPE as a last resort, especially when the hazard has the potential to cause death, serious injury or illness.
- The control that you want to use must be readily available, be made to suit or be put in place.
- Controls must be suitable for your workplace conditions, work processes and your employees.
- Take into account the cost of controlling risk to determine what is reasonably practicable.
- Check to see that the hazard control measures do not introduce any new hazards. If they do, then you need to manage these as well, using the first four steps above.
See our article, Workplace Hazards and the Hierarchy of Controls.
5 Steps to Ensure Hazard Control Measures Are Effective
Before you implement your control measures, you must assess their level of effectiveness. This is an ongoing process, to ensure that the hazard control measures remain relevant and provide protection for employees and visitors. After all, things change in work environments – new plant and machinery, new processes, weather variations, new employees, etc.
There are five steps you can take to continually improve and ensure the hazard control measures you choose are and remain the best you can use.
1. Determine Who Has Accountability for Health and Safety
You need to determine who has accountability for health and safety plans, procedures and documentation. It’s generally your Managers and Supervisors, and their accountability may vary across different procedures.
You must ensure that you give them the authority and resources to implement and maintain hazard control measures effectively. In addition, you should monitor their reports and recommendations to improve.
The level of risk and the experience of your employees will determine the amount and type of supervision that you need. Generally, higher levels of supervision are necessary when you have new or inexperienced employees, or when you introduce a new procedure or carry out difficult and critical tasks.
See our article, Can Construction Supervisors Recognise Workplace Hazards?
2. Conduct Regular Maintenance of Plant and Equipment
Hazard control measures need regular monitoring and maintenance to ensure they remain effective. You need to decide what you require when you implement each control. This will include inspecting and testing, repairing or replacing all damaged or worn plant and equipment.
It’s useful to establish a schedule for routine checks and maintenance appropriate to the controls. Also, many organisations establish a risk register when identifying hazards that details what action you need to take, who will be responsible for taking the action and by when.
You need to check that the hazard control measures remain suitable for the nature and duration of the work. Always ensure that they are set up and employees are using them correctly.
3. Ensure That Your Training is Up-To-Date and Employees Remain Competent
Training is critical. Employees need to know what constitutes a workplace hazard, how to recognise one and how best to control the risks. They need to know their responsibilities when working on high-risk activities so they keep themselves and others safe. Critically, training must cover the nature of the work, the associated risks and the hazard control measures they should use.
In short, your employees must be competent to do their job safely. Your employees should be able to demonstrate that they are competent in performing their tasks according to the procedures. As an employer, you need evidence of their continuing competence. You can’t just give an employee a procedure and ask them to acknowledge that they understand and are able to perform their tasks. You have to provide ongoing training in hazard control measures.
This is where the Tap into Safety Platform can help because it offers interactive and engaging hazard perception training online and on smart devices. We focus on critical risks and the common workplace hazards that can lead to a fatality or serious injury within industry-specific scenarios. The Platform has a substantial library of out-of-the-box training courses across a range of industry settings. We even have one on Choosing Hazard Control Measures to help you train your employees and another on understanding and applying the Hierarchy of Controls.
See our article, Can Employees Recognise, Recall and Report Workplace Hazards?
4. Maintain Up-to-date Information on the Hazards in Your Workplace
Things change. Manufacturers and suppliers may update the information about the hazards associated with plant and substances. You need to check any changes or updates to make sure the hazard control measures are still relevant.
Also, if maintenance processes reveal new hazards or show that you are not addressing existing hazards, you will need to review your hazard control measures.
When new legislation or new information becomes available, you must audit the control measures to ensure that they remain the most effective.
When you introduce new machinery and equipment, you should check that your processes and hazard control measures remain relevant.
5. Regularly Review and Consult With Your Employees
Where there is a regular review of work procedures in consultation with your employees, hazard control measures are likely to be more effective.
The Safe Work Australia Model Code of Practice on How to Manage Work Health and Safety Risks provides guidelines on how to review your hazard control measures. Ask yourself and your employees the following questions:
- Are the hazard control measures working effectively in both their design and operation?
- Are the control measures creating new problems?
- Are you missing any hazards?
- Are any new work methods, new equipment or chemicals making the job safer?
- Are all employees following the safety procedures?
- Do your employees need more instruction and training on how to work safely?
- Are your employees actively identifying hazards and possible hazard control measures?
- Are your employees openly raising health and safety concerns and reporting problems promptly?
- Are the frequency and severity of health and safety incidents reducing?
See our article, 8 Workplace Hazards That Can Kill.
Hazard control measures are a critical component of managing workplace risk and preventing fatalities, injuries and illnesses. This article discusses how to develop effective hazard control measures. We also provide suggestions on how to successfully implement them.
As a business, you need to determine who has accountability for health and safety in your organisation. You need to regularly maintain machinery and equipment and keep up-to-date information on the hazards in your workplace. We recommend regularly reviewing hazard control measures for accuracy and effectiveness with your employees.
Finally, training is crucial, and your employees need to know what constitutes a workplace hazard, how to recognise one and how best to control the risks. You must keep on going and accurate records of employee training to ensure and prove competence. In doing so, you meet your OHS obligations to keep your employees and others safe in your workplace.
This article is also available on the Tap into Safety Podcast.