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Before you implement risk control measures, consider these three points so you can comply with the OHS Act and avoid penalties

by , 10 February 2015
You have a legal duty to keep your employees safe at work.

To do this, you must:

1. Identify all the hazards that affect them;
2. Assess the risks that come with each hazard; and
3. Implement risk control measures to reduce risks.

When you implement risk controls, you must follow the legal principle of what a reasonable man would do in these circumstances, says the OHS Act.

To do this, consider these three points before implementing your risk control measures.

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Take this quick quiz to find out if you can handle the DoL hot seat
  • Which risk assessments have to be checked by an approved inspector every two years?
  • Is it absolutely necessary for your company to appoint and train someone as a risk assessor?
  • When was the last time you did a risk assessment? (Is that too long?)
  • Have you checked and double checked the less obvious health hazards?

If you can't answer even one of these questions you're not only putting your employee's lives at risk; you're also putting yourself in danger of massive fine from the DoL.
Don't wait until it's too late.

Learn how to do your risk assessments correctly here.

Three points you must consider before you put risk control measures in place

The Health & Safety Advisor says you must consider:
1. The extent of the risk
Here, you need to ask yourself questions like:
  • Will the hazard affect all employees or only a few?
  • What will the result of exposure to the hazard be? For example, will it be minor health effects like temporary dizziness. Or will it cause serious health effects like death?
  • Is the risk always there or only at certain times? For example, it's only present during maintenance.
2. The type of information you currently have about the hazard and risks that relate to it
You must look at things such as:
  • Is it possible to remove the risk completely? For example, by changing the process, raw materials or the technology you use.
  • Is it possible to reduce the risk to an acceptable level using the hierarchy of risk controls?
3. The costs of removing or reducing the risk in relation to the benefits
You need to look at:
  • What will it cost to implement these risk reduction measures?
  • What benefits will your company gain from investing in risk reduction measures?
Remember, while the OHS Act requires you to implement safety measures, it doesn't expect you to do so if the costs outweigh the benefit. It says you must do what's reasonable.
That said, if you decide not to implement a certain risk control measure, you must be able to justify your decision. This way, you can defend yourself if an incident happens and the DoL prosecutes you.

Now that you know what to consider, don't forget about the hierarchy of risk controls you must apply

'The order of controlling risks starts from the highest level of protection and reliability to the lowest,' says safework.sa.gov.au. You must:
  • Eliminate the hazards (level 1);
  • Substitute the hazard with something safer, i.e. reduce the risks using engineering controls (level 2); and
  • Reduce exposure to the hazard using administrative actions, i.e. use personal protective equipment (level 3).
There you have it: To comply with the OHS Act and avoid penalties, consider these three points before you implement risk control measures.
PS: For everything else you need to know about risks assessments and risk control measures, check out Risk Assessment: The 100% legally compliant risk assessment toolkit.

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