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7 steps to reduce OHS hazards in any industry

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Australia’s leading risk management training provider, SAI Global has launched an online scenario-based safety training course that meets critical criteria for OHS hazard audits.

The course, Online Auditing OHS Management Systems addresses the alarming issue of workplace safety and its impact on the economy. Work-related injuries and illnesses cost the Australian economy more than 60 billion dollars in a single year, representing 4.8% of the GDP.

SAI Global’s self-paced course can be accessed online from even remote areas, making it ideal for location-based industries.

According to OHS trainer Ray Bedson, who has over 30 years of experience in the industry and trains hundreds of employees every year through SAI Global, inadequate risk plans can increase the rate of workplace injuries, and are mostly the result of a lack of resources and expertise. He adds that employers can’t ignore the risks to their employees. For instance, a shoulder injury can cost an organisation $400,000 in accident compensation and prosecution costs, and a back injury over $1 million.

Ray Bedson says that best practice OHS risk management plans identify existing known hazards, measure and rank them, and outline simple and practical controls. Every plan should simplify company processes and bring them into real-life situations.

Seven steps to developing an effective plan for identifying and reducing workplace risks

Ray says that a risk plan is an ongoing commitment and not a one-time effort. All employees must be on board over the long term. In an organisation of 100 employees, a risk or OHS manager may need to commit 80 hours per month, while the remaining employees may need to commit another 120 hours per month collectively.

Ray advises companies to ask employees monthly, to recall any previous injuries and incidents including near misses, and discuss the reasons. Employees must be encouraged to voice their thoughts on potential hazards. Another tactic is to follow and observe an employee’s work for a few hours, and have discussions around safety to get a clear snapshot of potential hazards. Extremely busy managers can try to spot all hazards in a 30-minute walk through a work area, discuss with those who might be affected, and repeat the exercise every week until a thorough scope of the workplace has been made.

Employees can note all the identified hazards on a Workplace Inspection Checklist in their own area. Writing it down makes it harder to ignore, and lets the team know solutions are being considered.

A Hazard Identification, Risk Assessment & Control (HIRAC) format must be used to score each risk from negligible to extreme. Actions can be prioritised by taking into consideration the likelihood of an incident occurring and the level of consequence thereof. HIRAC or Risk Assessment forms are available from the industry association or statutory Work Safe or Work Cover authority, and are best filled out by HR, safety or OHS coordinators, with the assistance of safety representatives.

Control and consult
Ray believes it is best to implement a control that will eliminate the risk altogether, or minimise it through an engineering solution such as noise reduction. Note them down on the HIRAC form and consult again with employees to ensure everyone is on board. Getting employees involved will help ensure the controls are implemented at the right time when needed.

Monitor and review
Monthly reviews are required to determine if the processes and controls are effective, and are reducing incidents. By comparing the number of incidents and their level of significance, one can infer whether there has been any improvement. If not, it’s time to re-think the plan.

Train new employees
Awareness is the first step in controlling hazards. Employees who are new to the workplace, inexperienced or untrained are particularly at risk; therefore investing in their training and development can do more than just protect the business financially and legally - it can save their life. The most effective OHS risk management systems are practical, logical, and simple to implement and understand. Overly detailed plans with confusing forms discourage use and lead to workplace hazards being ignored.

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