Risk management a practical approach

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1 Risk management a practical approach

2 Introduction Preventing work related accidents and injuries is the primary concern for all those involved in health and safety. Work related accidents and injuries are caused by hazards, which are either not controlled or are inadequately controlled. In other words by a failure in the organisational safety management system. The management of risks is a key component in an organisation s safety management system. Using the HSE model of safety management it becomes clear that risk assessment and management is the most critical tool available to management to enable them to create safe and healthy workplaces. See figure 1. As the HSE states the aim is to apply the logic and rigour of business planning to the identification and control of risks. It is essential that organisations adopt a structured approach to controlling risks and risk management is an effective and user friendly tool which will help you to do so. Fundamental to using this tool effectively, is an understanding of the differences between the concepts of hazard, hazardous situation, risk, harm and loss. A hazard is anything that has the potential to cause harm or loss or damage to the environment. A hazardous situation occurs when a person comes into contact with/is exposed to the hazard. Risk is the likelihood that the hazard will cause harm or loss, together with the severity of that harm or loss. Harm is the adverse effect on an individual that may result from exposure to the hazard. Loss is the damage to equipment, property, productivity or the environment that may result from exposure to the hazard. HS(G) 65 Health & Safety Management Auditing Figure 1 Policy Organising Planning & Implementing Measuring Performance Reviewing Performance There are five main stages in the risk management process. 1 analyse work activities 2 identify the hazard/s 3 assess & evaluate the risk 4 identify, implement and record the controls 5 monitor and evaluate. Let s look at what is actually involved in each of these stages. Risk Management Process Figure 2 Figure 2 Evaluate & Monitor Analyse work activities Identify hazards Assess risks Evaluate risks Is risk tolerable/controlled? No Identify, implement & record controls Yes Monitor

3 Stages of the Risk Management Process Step One Analyse work activities In order to conduct an effective risk assessment it is important to make an accurate inventory of all the work activities that need to be assessed. Possible ways of classifying work activities include: Geographical areas Generic activities (manual handling, using display screen equipment) Stages in the production process, in the provision of a service Specific jobs or tasks. Whatever method you choose, it is vital to remember to include infrequent tasks as well as the more routine day to day work. Information that can be used for this initial analysis includes: Organisational charts Interviews Walk-through surveys of work areas Data from job/task analysis To conduct an analysis of a task it needs to be described as a series of sequential steps or tasks. Once the tasks have been broken down in this way, they can then be analysed for hazards. In other words, each task is examined to see what harm or loss could result from it. Step Two Identify the hazards As noted above a hazard is anything with the potential to cause harm or loss or damage to the environment. It is generally accepted that there are five different classes of hazard. They are: Physical e.g. floors, stairs, work platforms, steps, ladders, fire, falling objects, slippery surfaces, manual handling, noise, vibration, heat and cold, radiation, poor lighting, ventilation, air quality Chemical e.g. chemical substances, cleaning agents, dust and fumes from various processes such as welding, acids, poisons, substances that could lead to fire or explosion Biological e.g. bacteria, viruses, mould, mildew, insects, vermin, animals Mechanical/Electrical e.g. electricity, machinery, equipment, pressure vessels, fork lifts, cranes, hoists Psychosocial e.g. workplace stressors such as lack of control over work pacing, overload, harassment, interpersonal conflict

4 Hazard identification should involve a critical appraisal of all the tasks identified in the previous step to take account of hazards to employees, others affected by the organisation s activities (e.g. visitors, members of the public and contractors) and to those using its products and services. Remember, consideration should be given to hazards arising from both routine and non-routine operations. There are many sources of information which can be used for identifying hazards. These include: inspections, where you watch the task being performed and have discussions with the employees undertaking the task reviewing accident, ill-health and incident data from the organisation itself, from other organisations, or from central sources such as representative organisations legislation and health and safety codes of practice, which give practical guidance and include basic minimum requirements health and safety guidance and information on trends and developments in workplace health and safety relevant European Union and other international health and safety guidance information provided by manufacturers and suppliers of articles and substances for use at work relevant national and international standards relevant industry or trade association guidance results of safety audits results of accident investigations complaints observations consulting employees personal knowledge and experience of managers and employees expert advice and opinion from competent health and safety professionals Step Three Assess and Evaluate the Risks The HSA describes the risk assessment process as a careful examination of what could cause harm or loss so that you can weigh up whether you have taken enough precautions or should do more. In summary this step of the process involves: Gathering information about each hazard identified This information will come from the sources listed above. Figure 3 Likelihood Risk Severity Considering the likelihood and severity of the risk in order to assess the size of the risk (see figure 3) Nature of hazard: Type Number of risk factors Exposure: Frequency Duration Number of people Human differences: Skills Experience Training Physical capabilities

5 Risk is the link between the hazard and harm. The level of risk of a hazard is a combination of two factors relating to the hazard : The likelihood of harm or loss occurring and the potential severity of the harm or loss. So when we are talking about the level of risk of a hazard, these are the two factors that we examine. The likelihood and severity of are a function of several issues. Nature of hazard Some hazards may cause harm in a variety of ways. For example, a chemical may be toxic if spilt and absorbed through the skin, highly inflammable, and may give off fumes which are harmful if inhaled. This is what we mean by the number of risk factors. Hazards also vary in the degree of harm caused if exposed to them. A severe effect of exposure would include death, permanent disability or an illness such as cancer or hepatitis. Exposure Exposure to the hazard has an impact on both the likelihood of the hazard causing harm and/or loss and the severity of the resulting harm or loss. For example: how often are people exposed to a hazard (frequency), how long is the exposure (duration), and how many people are exposed to the hazard. When thinking of the number of people exposed to the hazard it is important to consider the whole range of people who might be exposed from permanent employees through to contractors, cleaners, maintenance staff and visitors. Human differences Hazards also need to be assessed in terms of the individuals or groups of individuals who are exposed to them, their skills, experience, training, physical capabilities. Consider for example new employees, members of the public, staff with disabilities. Evaluating the effectiveness of current controls At this point we need to critically evaluate the strategies or methods we currently have in place to manage the hazard. It is important to generate a full and detailed listing of all the controls in place at the time of the assessment. Many people do not realize that they are already using a variety of controls to manage their hazards. While personal protective clothing and equipment is obvious, and often the only control identified at the outset, more important measures that are higher up the hierarchy of control are often overlooked. This could be because they have become so much a part of the job that they are not considered to be controls. For example, machine guarding, supervision, operator expertise, operating procedures.

6 The Nertney Wheel can be a useful framework to help identify controls (see figure 4). Once the controls have been identified we need to ask a series of questions: Do the current controls: Reduce risk as far as reasonably practicable? Meet the standards set by a legal requirement? Comply with a recognised industry standard/ Represent good practice? 1 Physical: Noise Lighting Weather 2 Managed: Work schedules Communication Co-operation Work locations The right tools, materials, machinery Special equipment Warning devices Controlled Fit for purpose equipment Controlled work Competent people Safe production work environment Safe work practices environment Figure 4 Selection Experience Motivation Supervision Documented methods & procedures Standard Operating Procedures Work Plans Using a risk assessment table to work out the risk associated with the hazard and provide a risk rating There are many different risk assessment tables available, varying considerably in the level of complexity used. See example in Figure 5 figure 5. Priority Table These tables are potentially a useful tool to assist you in prioritising risks and deciding on the level of intervention required. Therefore it is important for you to find a table which you are comfortable to use and which meets the needs of your specific situation. unlikely likely very likely Likelihood slightly harmful harmful Effect very harmful Using the table, assessments of likelihood and consequence can be translated into levels of risk. Areas of high risk can be given first priority for elimination or control in the workplace. Step Four Identifying, Implementing and Recording Controls If the risk is adequately controlled we document the assessment and continue to monitor the hazard (step five). If the risk is not adequately controlled we identify, implement and document additional controls. In other words, if the risk is not reduced as far as reasonably practicable, what else can be done? Controls are methods of eliminating or reducing hazards. Identifying controls means that we ask: How can we eliminate the hazard? Or How can we manage it so that it doesn t cause problems?

7 The selection and implementation of the most appropriate method of risk or hazard control is a crucial part of the process. If risk assessments are conducted well, they will provide valuable information to help decide what needs to be done to control the hazard. Where there is more than one control option available for a similar degree of control of risk, then the most effective option should be used, not the cheapest but the best value for money. In many cases the most effective control strategy will involve more than one control method. The Hierarchy of Control (figure 6) is the preferred order in which hazards should be controlled. The first question we should ask is: How can we eliminate the hazard? The last question we should ask is: What protection can the employee wear to minimise the risk of exposure to the hazard? Category One Elimination 1 Elimination Eliminating the hazard from the workplace entirely is the best way to control it. Where no hazard exists, no risk of injury or illness exists. For example: buying ready sawn timber rather than using a circular saw dispose of unwanted chemicals Hierarchy of Control Elimination Substitution Engineering Controls Administrative Controls provide lifting device to eliminate the need for manual handling. PPE Figure 6 100% 10% Category Two Minimising the risk 2 Substitution If is not possible to eliminate the hazard, replace it with something less hazardous, which will perform the same task in a satisfactory manner. Some examples are: substituting a hazardous chemical with a less toxic one replacing a telephone handset with a headset where there is frequent use of telephone substituting a smaller package or container to reduce the risk of manual handling injuries. 3 Engineering solutions If the hazard cannot be eliminated or a safer substitute implemented, then reduce the chance of hazardous contact. For example: enclosure (enclose in a way that eliminates or controls the risk) guarding/segregation of people interlocks and cut-off switches

8 exhaust fans Category Three Back-up Controls The controls in this category provide a back-up to the other categories. Generally, these should not be relied upon as the primary method to control risk until all options to eliminate the hazard or minimise the risk have been exhausted. Sometimes backup controls should be implemented as an initial control phase while elimination or minimising controls are being evaluated and applied. 4 Administrative solutions These are the management strategies which can be introduced, training, job rotation, limitation of exposure time, provision of written work procedures. For example: Safe systems of work that reduce the risk to an acceptable level Written procedures that are known and understood by those affected Adequate supervision Identification of training needs and provision of appropriate training Information/instruction (signs, handouts) 5 Personal protective equipment This should only be used as an interim measure to reduce exposure to a hazard. PPE must be provided free of charge and maintained by the employer. Employers are also required to ensure that workers are trained in the proper use of PPE. Examples of PPE include: masks, ear plugs, respirators, helmets, boots, safety shoes, overalls, etc The most effective way to control risk is obviously to remove it. Elimination is by definition 100% effective. The further you go down the list the less effective the methods become. Training for example has been estimated as being only 10% effective. It is also worth bearing in mind that the amount of management and supervisory effort needed to maintain the controls is in inverse rank order. In other words, item 5 takes the most effort to maintain and item 1 the least effort.

9 Step Five Evaluate and Monitor Once new controls have been put in place they must be evaluated to assess their effectiveness and to determine if they have introduced any new hazards. This is done be re-assessing the risk after a specified period of time. A risk management program is cyclical. The process does not end once current workplace hazards have been successfully controlled. A systematic monitoring and review system must be implemented as it is critical to keep checking that the controls you have put in place are achieving the desired result. Only by regular monitoring and review can you ensure that this is the case. Workplaces are dynamic and constantly changing and these changes must be reflected in the risk assessments. There is always the potential for new hazards to be introduced into the workplace. These hazards can be due to the introduction of new technology, equipment or substances, new work practices or procedures, a change in the work environment, new staff and so on. For your risk management programme to be as effective as possible, hazards associated with changes should be identified, assessed and eliminated or controlled prior to the introduction of any changes.

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