What is risk management? OHS Risk Management

Understanding OHS risk management for Australian business

Every Australian business is legally required to provide a workplace that is free of risks and hazards. But how is this even possible if your organisation is a factory, hospital, or industrial mining site? Can you create a job site without any hazards?

In this blog we’re explaining the risk management approach to OHS, how to apply it to enterprise compliance, and what risk management actually looks in practice. Risk management is the way that Australian businesses can operate safely and remain in compliance with the law.

What is risk management?

Risk management is a process for understanding the risks and hazards associated with your business operations — then taking steps to ensure that individual hazards are assessed, eliminated (or controlled), and monitored

Business face 3 different types of risk to their operations:

  1. Strategic Risk — risk linked to the strategic decisions of the organisation’s business leaders, such as acquiring a competitor’s processing plant which could weaken the company’s cashflow and liquidity.
  2. Project Risk — risk linked to individual projects, such as appointing an IT project manager without a proper contract, they could leave the company before the network is fully transitioned to the new hardware.
  3. Operational Risk — risk linked to the daily operations of the business, such as healthcare workers who transfer elderly patients from beds to wheelchairs are at risk of manual handling injuries.

In this article, we’re discussing OHS risk and compliance, but larger organisations will usually create a risk management plan for each area of concern.

OHS Risk management in practice

In practice, OHS risk management has 4 key steps which perpetually operate in a circle as follows:

What is risk management? OHS Risk Management is practice.

1. Identifying risk and hazards

The first area of risk management is to identify individual hazards by physically inspecting your office, factory, or remote mining site — documenting each hazard and area of concern. Hazards can range from an open tin of flammable paint sitting on a workbench, to a young worker being allowed to weld without sufficient training, to the interior of a grain silo.

2. Assessing business risk

Once you have a list of hazards your next job is to assess the level of risk — to your business and to your workers. This is called a risk assessment and we’ve included below a quick example of how a single hazard might be assessed.

  • What is the nature of the hazard? — physical injury to key nurses while moving patients. Nurses are highly trained and critical to business operations.
  • What could happen? — nurses could sustain back strain and other musculoskeletal injuries.
  • What could be the severity of the hazard? — nurses may require immediate hospitalisation, then lengthy rehabilitation before returning to work. Their back could be permanently injured.
  • How likely is it to happen? — individual nurses move patients 3-5 times per day. There are not enough lifting aids in peak times so nurses sometimes move patients by hand. The likelihood is very high.

As individual hazards are assessed they are normally given a risk score which allows you to create a priority list for action and control.

3. Controlling hazards

Hazards must be controlled according to the Hierarchy of Controls as outlined in the WHS Regulations. When a hazard cannot be eliminated it must be minimised to an acceptable level of safety using a combination of:

  • Elimination controls — completely remove the hazard where possible.
  • Substitution controls — change chemicals and processes to safer alternatives.
  • Engineering controls — use equipment and machinery that reduces contact with the hazard.
  • Administration controls — implement safe work procedures, supervision and training.
  • PPE — have your workers wear personal protective equipment to protect themselves from the hazard.

4. Maintaining compliance

The WHS Regulations also require you to monitor and review each hazard to ensure that control measures are working, and new hazards haven’t been introduced to the workplace.

5. Keeping records

At each step in the risk management process records should be kept to document compliance and assist with monitoring and review.

Risk management and WHS legislation

Risk management is a legal requirement of WHS legislation in every Australian state or territory under the following laws:

  • Work Health and Safety Act — Section 17 of the WHS Act in your state (or territory) requires you to eliminate risks to health and safety, and when this is not practicable, they must be minimised as far as possible.
  • Work Health and Safety Regulations — Sections 32-28 of the WHS Regulations require you to identify, assess, control and review hazards using the Hierarchy of Controls.

Rapid Risk is Australia’s leading OHS risk management software, allowing you to finally ditch those departmental spreadsheets and access your all your risk assessments and OHS data in real-time.

Tools and techniques

There are loads of risk management tools and templates you can download over the internet — if you want to develop a risk management plan via a spreadsheet or word document. But a more sophisticated approach is to use business risk management software which allows you to manage enterprise risk and OHS risk all in one place — and in real time.

A digital risk management system will:

  • Categorise risk into different areas (strategic, project, operational) so you can manage all your enterprise and OHS risk in one place.
  • Use a sophisticated risk matrix to analyse the severity of risk areas and individuals’ hazards.
  • Give you the tools you need to determine root causes.
  • Allow you to assign correction actions and control measures to key personnel.
  • Act as a repository for operational procedure and OHS policy.
  • Consolidate your data into a visual dashboard, accessible 24/7 by desktop computer, tablet, and smartphone.
  • Send updates and notifications in real time as risk and hazards are identified, assessed, updated, or eliminated.
  • Perpetually monitor and review individual hazards in accordance with OHS Regulations.

Rapid Risk was developed (and updated) in accordance with international quality standard ISO 31000:2018 Risk management — Guidelines.

Looking for a better set of risk management tools?

If you’re looking for a better way of meeting OHS compliance and creating a risk management plan that encompasses all areas of enterprise risk — reach out to the Rapid team today.

Our qualified consultants will walk you through a free demonstration of our Rapid Risk software and show you how to customise and configure the system for the unique needs of your industry and employment sector.

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