A hazard is ‘anything (including work practices or procedures) that has the potential to harm the health or safety of a person’ ( Occupational Health & Safety Act 2000).
The first step in making your workplace safer is identifying hazards (finding safety problems). Often the best way to find hazards is by looking at the tasks in your workplace. Consider the steps involved in the task and what hazards there are at each of these steps. Write the steps and any hazards down – this is the start of your safe work procedures.
You should also:
- look back at any incidents or near misses and see if there are any safety problems you need to fix. You can look at your records or check what safety problems are common in your industry (including workers compensation data).
- talk to your workers and contractors. As well as formal consultation arrangements use “tool box talks” or staff meetings to give workers a chance to contribute.
- check our health & safety topics and think about whether these major hazards and issues may be relevant to your workplace.
- inspect or audit your workplace.
Some hazards will be obvious, such as unguarded machinery or working at heights. Others are not as obvious, such as fatigue. Some hazards can have immediate effects such as electricity or trip hazards. Others cause injuries that develop slowly, for example back injuries from lifting goods.
Hazards can be:
- physical – noise< , radiation, light, vibration
- chemical – poisons, dusts
- biological – viruses, plants, parasites
- mechanical/electrical – slips, trips and falls, tools, electrical equipment
- psychological – fatigue, violence, bullying.
When should hazards be identified?
- before using any premises as a place of work
- before and during installation, erection, commissioning or alteration of plant
- before changes to work practices and systems of work are introduced
- before hazardous substances or dangerous goods are introduced
- while work is being carried out
- when new health and safety information relevant to the business becomes available.
Call the AMIEU office on (02) 4929 5496 for more information about identifying hazards.
This information is from WorkCover NSW, Identifying Hazards.