The first thing you need to do is to find the hazards in your workplace – that is, find anything with the potential to cause harm. Some hazards will be obvious because they’ll be common to your industry, but others won’t be.
- Start by talking. It’s a legal requirement that safety is discussed in workplaces, and you gain great insights into safety issues and solutions from your workers.
- Regularly scheduled meetings, such as tool box talks, production meetings, team meetings and face-to-face discussions, can be good opportunities to discuss health and safety. Find out more about getting the conversation started in our workplace consultation publication.
- Working closely with your workers, look at every task in your workplace to find potential hazards. Write everything down – we’ve created a Safety Action Plan for you to use.
- Not all injuries are immediately obvious. Some are only discovered over time, such as illnesses caused by long-term exposure to certain chemicals so consider whether these are a hazard in your workplace.
- Major causes of injury are listed in your industry and health & safety topics – research the area that affects you – for example, manual handling, chemicals, bullying, occupational violence, stress, falls.
- Go through any injury records you have (if you don’t currently have a register of injuries, start one now – it’s legally required that you keep one). You’ll be able to see if any problem areas exist, or if any patterns are emerging.
After you’ve made your list of possible hazards you need to make a judgment about the seriousness of each hazard, and decide which hazard requires the most urgent attention.
- Take a close look at each item on your list. What is the possible outcome if things go wrong?
- Are we talking about scratches and bruises, or is there potential for someone to be seriously injured or even killed? Is it an everyday thing, or something that only comes up now and then, giving you more time to find a solution? Are there things you can do right now, as a short term fix, while you work out a permanent solution?
- Once you’ve worked out which hazards have the greatest potential to cause injury or disease, or are a risk to public safety, mark them as your high priority hazards. After that, rank them in priority order from highest to lowest.
- Your list should be regularly reviewed and updated. You and your workers need to continually monitor every aspect of your workplace and make sure any potential new hazards are immediately identified.
When you’ve prioritised the hazards on your list, you need to start immediately on the most important step of all – fixing the problems.
- Your first aim should be to totally remove the risk. For example, if the risk involves a hazardous chemical, try to find a safe alternative to the chemical. If there is a slipping or tripping hazard in your workplace, see if it can be removed. If a task is dangerous, look for alternative ways to complete the task.
- If it’s not possible to totally remove a risk, you need to find ways to control it. You might have to alter the way certain jobs are done, change work procedures, or perhaps provide protective equipment.
You’ll often find there are simple solutions to many of the hazards in your workplace. Most of them will be inexpensive, and some will cost nothing at all. Of course, sometimes there are no straightforward solutions. What do you do then?
- check our publications, alerts and guidance notes for your industry/topic and see if there’s a documented solution to the problem.
- Get help from associations or groups that are related to your particular industry. They might have come across a similar problem before and have found a way to fix it.
- Talk to other people in your industry to see how they’ve handled similar problems.