conducting a risk assessment – your questions answered

Business owners and leadership teams have a responsibility to provide their staff with a safe and healthy workplace. And as such, you need to be aware of all real and potential risks before making an assessment, implementing a fix, and then evaluating that fix to ensure it had the desired effect. Along with the obvious human benefits of running a risk assessment, devoting time to cultivating a healthy work environment offers business benefits too. These include increased productivity, reduced absenteeism, improved staff morale and in turn employee retention. In this Q&A we answer some of the major concerns and issues that can come up during a typical risk assessment.

Q. What is the basic risk assessment process?
A. Most safe work experts agree on a four-step ‘SAFE’ process. It involves 1) Seeing potential risks, 2) Assessing that risk, 3) Fixing the risk, 4) Evaluating the fix.

Q. How do I go about identifying all risks that could potentially exist?
A. The best results come from a mix of methods. The first is a site inspection, where you use various senses, such as sight, smell, hearing and touch to identify issues. Next is a data search, which involves looking at past injury and illness data from your business, and from other similar companies. Finally, consult with staff, safety representatives and other specialists such as Safe Work Australia, union experts and insurers.

Q. Step two is about assessing. Why not skip straight to the fix?
A. The assessment tells you how urgent the fix is, what is involved, and even whether a fix is necessary. A frayed electrical cord is an extreme danger and could have a very serious impact on anybody who touches it, so it demands immediate repair. But a source of noise, such as an aircraft engine, which cannot be walled in or replaced with something quieter, will actually require training, administration processes and equipment for staff. So the assessment is necessary to know what the fix will look like.

Q. Once the fix is complete, why must that be evaluated, too?
A. That’s simple. First, you need to check that the fix achieves its goal. Second, the fix could actually create its own risks. If you replace a noisy piece of equipment with a quieter machine, that new machine needs to be checked for its own risk profile. Often new issues do not become clear until a change has been in place for a while. 

To ensure staff are safe at all times, risk assessments should be regarded as ongoing processes that are constantly conducted and reviewed. 

Ensure you’re meeting your WH&S responsibilities
At Randstad, we understand the people issues and responsibilities managers and HR professionals face every day. This is why we’ve created The Human Resource Guide, an always-evolving online HR resource that delivers the answers to your day-to-day concerns. It’s like having your own personal HR advisor by your side, 24/7.

Learn more about the best-practice approach to people management with The Randstad Human Resource Guide.

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