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breaking down the health and safety at work act  v2
15.05.16    |  

Breaking Down the Health and Safety at Work Act

Each month we hope to bring you information that will help in thoroughly understanding the new Health and Safety at Work Act (HSWA).

This month we want to break down the HSWA General Risk and Workplace Management Regulations 2016 Part 1: General duties: Risk management process to be followed by a Person Conducting a Business or Undertaking (PCBU) in specified circumstances.

The HSWA clearly highlights a PCBU's responsibilities associated with the management of particular risks through Regulations 5 – 8:

5. Duty to identify hazards
6. Hierarchy of control measures
7. Duty to maintain effective control measures
8. Duty to review control measures

Establishing the Context
Establishing the context of a project is an important first step to any risk analysis. Without establishing the context in which the risks are to be framed, it is impossible to determine the significance of any given uncertain event. Establishing the Context consists of the below main components:

Risk Identification 
Risk assessment often begins with identifying potential sources of harm or illness which are hazards. You cannot risk assess without understanding the potential hazards that workers are exposed to. 
Methods to identify hazards may include:


  • Trend analysis of historical data
  • New hazard identification by workers and/or through incident investigation
  • Inspections and audits
  • Worker participation and engagement.

Once hazards are identified risks can then be described. It is helpful to remember the hazard is the thing that can cause harm, the risk is what the outcome could be and someone was harmed after being exposed to the harm.
Examples of hazards and then the description of the risk

Risk Analysis and Assessment
Risk Analysis involves developing understanding of the risks through a consideration of cause and effect. Risk analysis must consider

  • the likelihood of the hazard or the risk concerned occurring; and
  • the degree of harm that might result from the hazard or risk; and
  • what the person concerned knows, or ought reasonably to know the hazard or risk.

Risk Evaluation
Risk evaluation is about assessing each risk to identify whether the risk and/or its exposure is acceptable. In many organisations, a risk matrix may be in place to formalise the risk evaluation process and subsequent management of risks. A risk matrix may itemise the thresholds of risk (consequence x likelihood).

Risk Treatment
After evaluating risks, the next step in the process is risk treatment. Risk treatment refers to control hierarchy as mentioned in the HSW Act (s22) in relation to the primary duty of the PCBU to act reasonably practicable. 
The PCBU must: 
(a) to eliminate risks to health and safety, so far as is reasonably practicable; and
(b) if it is not reasonably practicable to eliminate risks to health and safety, to minimise those risks so far as is reasonably practicable.

Communication and Consultation
Communication and consultation are an integral part of the risk management process. It informs every stage of the risk management process and should involve both internal and external stakeholders.

A consultative approach to risk management may:

  • Helps establish the context
  • Ensure that the interests of interested parties are understood and considered
  • Help ensure that risks are adequately identified
  • Ensures different areas of expertise have input when analysing risks
  • Ensure that different views are considered when defining risk criteria and in evaluating risks
  • Garners endorsement and support for a control plan.

Monitor and Review 
Risk management must be regularly monitored and reviewed to ensure that the risk monitoring and assessment are up to date and risk controls are effective and being implemented as agreed in a timely way.
Monitoring and review are proactive rather than reactive way to deal with risk. It is only when regularly reviewing known and potential sources of risk and their potential consequences that informed decisions can be made to help reduce exposure to threats and capitalise on opportunities.

The benefits of effective monitoring and review processes includes:

  • Ensuring that controls are effective and efficient
  • Allows opportunity to identify areas of improvement
  • Analysing and learning lessons from events (including near-misses), changes, trends, successes and failures
  • Identify trends or emerging risks.
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