The Occupational Health and Safety Act 85 of 1993 puts a lot of focus on hazard identification and risk assessment (HIRA) to reduce injuries in the workplace hence the importance of HIRA training. Section 8 talks about ensuring a safe workplace by taking steps to eliminate and mitigate against risks. Section 10 instructs manufacturers to ensure that their products are without risk. Section 12 instructs employers to identify risks which may pose danger to employees. Section 18 mentions hazard identification and risk assessment as a function of the Health & Safety Representative. Throughout the Regulations reference is continuously made to identifying hazards and reducing risks.
To be able to conduct a hazard identification and risk assessment accurately the individual needs to receive the correct HIRA training procedures, have enough experience in the workplace to be able to conduct hazard identification and risk assessments and have the relevant authority and support to suggest and implement control measures. It is also important to find an experienced training provider to offer the risk assessment courses in South Africa.
Objectives of HIRA training
There are 2 objectives of a hazard identification and risk assessment:
- To identify any hazards faced by an organization and determine how risky each one may be;
- To evaluate current control measures and determine if enough is being done to protect anyone at risk from possible hazards.
Failure to conduct regular hazard identification and risk assessments could mean that not all risk has been identified, and current control measures could be outdated, ineffective or non-existent! It is not morally acceptable for any organization to expose their employees to risk injury or death. When organizations run operations where employees are exposed to hazards with risks which are not addressed or managed appropriately, the organization open itself to bad publicity, reputational damage, demotivated employees and management, difficulty in recruiting new employees, pressure from social groups and legal prosecution from staff and the Department of Labour! From a financial point accidents and incidents are bad for business and ideally must be prevented! Accidents and incidents cost money due to down time, overtime for replacement labour, management time being spent on incident investigations instead of running the company, personal injury claims, and increased insurance premiums! It is therefore extremely important to understand why HIRA training is so important.
Difference between Hazards and Risks
In the Health & Safety environment you will come across the words “hazards” and “risks”. It is important to understand the difference between the two terms:
- Hazard – A hazard is something with the potential to cause harm. An example would be water on the floor.
- Risk – A risk is the likelihood that an unwanted event will occur and how severe it would be. An example would be the likelihood of someone slipping on the water on the floor and what would the possible injuries be.
Types of Incidents in the Workplace
There are different terms being used for different types of workplace incidents and it is important to know which term to use when. Below are some definitions:
- Accidents – Accidents are when an unwanted and/or unplanned event has taken place and caused injury to a person/s.
- Incidents – Incidents are when an unwanted and/or unplanned event has taken place and caused damage to equipment and/or property.
- Near Miss – A near miss is when an unwanted and/or unplanned event has taken place and there is no injury to person or property. Controlling near miss events plays a crucial part in reducing accidents and incidents from occurring in the future!
5 Steps to a Hazard Identification and Risk Assessment
- Identify the hazards – This is the key step to the HIRA training process. This can be done through walk arounds in the workplace, consulting employees, referring to the manufacturer’s instructions, historic data on accidents and incidents your own workplace as well as in workplaces similar to yours, reference to what has been legislated against.
- Decide who can be harmed – When establishing who might be at risk of harm it is important to look further than the employees in the immediate area of the risk. Anyone who might come into contact with the hazard needs to be taken into account. This includes the young and old workers who are at particular risk, external contractor workers, visitors, the public, trespassers, the surrounding community and the general environment.
- Evaluate the risk and the adequacy of current controls – By using an adequate system or calculation determine the level of risk from extremely high to low. Once this is done assess your control measures that are in place to reduce the risk in the workplace and determine how effective they are and what else you can be implemented to further reduce the risk. Control measures include the following: eliminating risks although not always possible e.g. change the hazard to something not dangerous; reduce the amount of exposure to risks e.g. reducing the amount of time spent working with a hazard; isolating the risk to reduce exposure e.g. building a structure around a noisy component to contain the sound; control the risk e.g. introduce hot working permits; and as a last resort introduce Personal Protective Equipment.
- Record significant findings – Conclude the previous 3 steps by detailing the significant findings. Communicate the findings with all employees and management in the workplace. It is important to weigh up the cost involved in reducing risks in the workplace compared to the significance of the identified risk. For example, purchasing an expensive machine to reduce the risk which has never happened and should it occur would only have minor consequences is inappropriate.
- Review – It is advisable to regularly and continuously review risk assessments to ensure that control measures are kept up to date and are still effective. Previous controls may have become obsolete or new hazards might have been introduced by purchasing new equipment or employing new employees, this will also validate a reason for regular hazard identification and risk assessments.
The Department of Labour and its inspectors require companies and organizations to develop their OHS management systems around recent detailed health and safety risk assessments that have been conducted. It makes sense and a priority to reduce and eliminate the identified hazards and risks and in so doing, make the workplace a health and safe environment.
As an employer you may outsource the risk assessment process to an external OHS specialist company, such as Absolute Health Services, who can perform this risk assessment process on the company or organization’s behalf. Or an internal staff member can be sent to complete accredited HIRA training.
Accredited HIRA Training
Absolute Health Services offers an HWSETA accredited HIRA training course or also known as risk assessment courses in South Africa. We recommend this course to any individuals who would be required to undertake hazard identification and risk assessments in the workplace. HIRA course prices vary between different providers but ours is priced at R795.00 ex VAT. Our course covers the following topics:
- The legal requirements pertaining to conducting continuous risk assessments
- The importance of conducting risk assessments
- Risk assessment documentation
- Common hazards and risks encountered during a continuous risk assessment
- Recording of findings
- Remedial- and Follow-up Actions