A Comprehensive Guide to Identifying Workplace Hazards and Ensuring Safety
As a Person Conducting Business or Undertaking (PCBU), ensuring a safe working environment is paramount to the well-being of all employees. Identifying potential hazards is a crucial step in preventing accidents and promoting a healthy workplace.
Regular Workplace Inspections
One of the most proactive approaches to identifying hazards is conducting regular workplace inspections. Workplace inspections observe how tasks are performed, as well as the condition of equipment and facilities.
During the inspection, safety professionals will consider the following:
Ensuring that the workplace allows workers to perform their duties without compromising their health and safety. Factors such as unobstructed movement, proper ventilation, and adequate lighting should be assessed for example.
Observing how tasks are carried out, considering the physical, mental, and emotional demands they impose on workers.
Equipment and Tools:
Assessing whether the tools and equipment provided are suitable for the tasks at hand, and ensuring they are well-maintained. This includes ensuring appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE).
Interactions and Behaviour:
Analysing how workers, managers, and supervisors interact, and addressing any inappropriate behaviours or conflicts.
Remember, not all hazards are obvious. Some may have long-term health effects, while others can lead to stress or fatigue. Did you know, occupational stress is a pervasive problem in the Australian workplace? Several factors contribute to occupational stress, including the mental and physical aspects of job demands. Employers should be vigilant about potential hazards that might come with newly acquired goods or equipment, and update procedures accordingly.
Why do I need a safe work design?
‘Safe work design’ refers to evaluating work tasks, systems, the physical environment, and the well-being of workers, to create environments that optimise safety. Once having identified Workplace Hazards, implementing a safe work design helps to achieve a safe workplace. The design phase offers a prime opportunity to eliminate hazards and minimise risks.
4 Tips for developing a safe work design
1. Have clear communication about Work, Health and Safety across your teams
Encourage open communication, where workers can report health and safety concerns, near misses, and incidents without fear of repercussions. Surveys can also provide valuable insights into potential hazards, such as workplace bullying or physical strain.
2. Review available information
Utilise available resources and information to identify industry-specific hazards and risks. Regulators, industry associations, unions, technical specialists, and safety consultants are excellent sources of valuable guidance.
Manufacturers and suppliers can provide safety data sheets and instruction manuals for substances, plant, or processes used in the workplace.
3. Analysing Records and Incidents
Examine health monitoring records, workplace incidents, near misses, worker complaints, sick leave, and investigation results to identify recurring hazards. Any incidents that caused harm should be thoroughly investigated to pinpoint the underlying hazard.
Utilising an online safety system such as mySHEQ can help collate your data and records for incident and equipment management for example. Completely customisable to your business with industry-specific WHS procedures and templates – Discover mySHEQ today.
4. Evaluating Hazard Frequency
Assess how often workers are exposed to potential hazards. Some hazards may exist only occasionally, while others pose constant risks.
Understanding the frequency of exposure will help prioritise preventive measures, and consider mitigating workplace risk with risk management services.
Disclaimer – these articles are provided to supply general safety information to people responsible for OHS in their organisation. They are general in nature and do not substitute for legal and/or professional advice. We always suggest that organisations obtain information specific to their needs. Additional information can be found at https://www.safeworkaustralia.gov.au/
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