Managing Hazards in the Workplace

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Why should a workplace implement hazard control programs? And how do you go about implementing one?

In this article we’re going to discuss how to identify, assess and control hazards so you, as a business owner, can prevent any potential harm to employees or damage to plant and equipment.

So, what are hazards?

Hazards are anything that has the potential to harm the health and safety or a person.

What are my obligations under safety legislation?

The person conducting the business or undertaking (PCBU) is responsible for identifying hazards which may be present in the workplace.

Managing and accessing hazards?

There are four steps to managing risks in the workplace. Think SAFE – See it – Assess it – Fix it – Evaluate it. 

See it (more commonly known as identify it)

Talk to your workers – they are exposed to workplace hazards and risks every day. Identify safety concerns related to their place of work, the activities they undertake and also any plant, equipment and chemicals they may use.

Perform workplace inspections – simply walking around and visually inspecting the workplace can reveal hazards that might have been overlooked.

Assess it (undertaking a risk assessment, see later in this article)

Look at each of the hazards you have identified and determine its potential level of harm

How likely is it to cause an injury or incident?

How severe would be the consequences if an incident occurred?

Fix it

Fixing (more commonly known as controlling) a hazard involves working your way through the below control measures. What you do is work your way down the control measures to implement control measures which will reduce the likelihood of injury. Now there can be more than 1 control measure for the hazard and usually is. The control measures are as follows:

  • Elimination;
  • Substitution;
  • Isolation;
  • Engineering;
  • Administration and;
  • Providing PPE

Once the control measures have been developed then actions should be implemented with people responsible for those actions to implement the hazards and by due timeframes. Developing actions to implement the control measures are a must or the hazard will still not be controlled. Records should be kept of the implementation dates of these control measures.

Evaluate it

Review your risk assessment to see how effective your control measures are. Some questions you will need to ask during the review are:

  • Did you eliminate the hazard?
  • Have there been any incidents since implementing the control measures?
  • How safe is it to work now with the control measures compared to before?
  • Are there any other control measures that should be implemented?
  • Are there any other hazards that have not been identified?

To meet legislative requirements, you must maintain a register of workplace health and safety risks and hazards.

Undertaking a risk assessment?

A risk assessment involves considering three aspects of a hazard:

  • The likelihood of the hazard causing injury;
  • The degree of injury/illness/damage should it occur;
  • The exposure to the hazard including such things as frequency of interaction with the hazard and types of personnel (children/aged/public etc.).
  • Rating the risk of the hazard using a Risk Matrix

The rating of the risk would determine the importance of implementing the control measures, obviously the higher the risk of injury or death would mean that the control measures should be implemented asap.

A full risk assessment will require business to record the following:

  • Hazard Type
  • Risk Score
  • Additional Notes of the Risk Assessment
  • Date Assessed
  • Assessed By
  • Person Responsible for implementing control measures
  • When control measure is to implemented by

You can manage this process using a manual paper-based system, but using an online system such as Online WHS will help take the stress out of this through automation and simplicity of use.

Hazard Control?

Controlling hazards is the core objective of any WHS management system.

Ideally, you should ELIMINATE the need for the hazard altogether, but if you can’t, you might be able to SUBSTITUTE a safer hazard instead, and so on down the hierarchy of control measures.

Sometimes, a combination of the steps will apply. E.g. Personal Protective Equipment (step 5) might still be worn in step 2 (Substitute), and so on.

The effectiveness and importance of each control measure is emphasised by following the hierarchy of control measures.

The five step Hierarchy of Hazard Control include:


Can the hazard be left out of the equation altogether? In the planning stage ask if there is any need to use or have the hazard around. An example might be (say) a vacuum cleaner that is going to be used in a high-traffic area. You know the electric lead to it is going to create a trip hazard. Using a battery powered cleaner will eliminate this hazard.


There is a need to paint some stage materials, and the plan has been to use some epoxy paint that happens to emit toxic fumes. Is there a water-based, less-toxic paint available that will do the job?


Perhaps a noisy drive motor for some gadget or other is able to be isolated by being placed in a less-frequented part of the building, or a sound-proofed cage built around it. Unpleasant smells, contaminated or stale air might be ventilated from an area by use of an exhaust fan.


If there are no other options, perhaps the only way around the problem is to develop procedures and provide training to staff to follow when working with a hazard. This step could also include rotating staff that have to work with the hazard, ensuring they are only in contact with the hazard for limited amounts of time. e.g. Keyboard entry; exposure to heat and cold, and so on.

Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

PPE is always the ‘last resort’ of control. Don’t forget, this usually means there is nothing between the hazard and ourselves other than a layer of protective clothing or a mask or glasses. If this layer breaks down, then there is nothing between ourselves and the hazardous situation.

e.g. Protective gloves to handle chemical cleaning agent.

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