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Hazards

Every employer is legally obliged to ensure that their employees are healthy and safe in the workplace

Within most small to medium-sized businesses, the responsibility of health and safety management is usually coordinated centrally by a HR manager; however, this does not detract from the fact that health and safety best practice is the responsibility of ‘everyone’ as outlined in the Health and Safety at Work Act (1974).

What are some common hazards in the workplace?

 

A ‘workplace hazard’ can be loosely described as anything at work that may become a potential source of harm or adverse effect on a person’s health and wellbeing.

It is good practice to categorise hazards in the workplace into the following groups:

  • Chemical
  • Noise
  • Electrical
  • Vibration
  • Biological
  • Ergonomic
  • Fire
  • Temperature
  • Physical
  • Machinery
  • Other hazards (stress, fatigue, assaults from other people etc.)

How to identify workplace hazards

 

It is the duty of HR to develop a clear health and safety policy to outline what people’s responsibilities are regarding common hazard identification around your organisation. This should clarify the best way to report hazards centrally. Organisations often use paper-based systems with forms and a box to post them in, or an electronic form via email or intranet.

HR managers also need to encourage people to be mindful enough to identify any potential hazard within the workplace. In order to achieve this effectively, you need to engage with your managers and staff so that they can look into their own work areas. This means carrying out regular workplace inspections which will help to prevent injuries and illnesses. HR should be encouraging critical examination of all aspects of the workplace. These inspections identify and record hazards that must be addressed and corrected.

Workplace inspections

 

A thorough workplace inspection should include the following details:

  • Listen to the concerns of workers and supervisors
  • Gain further understanding of jobs and tasks
  • Identifying existing and potential hazards
  • Determine underlying causes of hazards
  • Monitor hazard controls (personal protective equipment, engineering controls, policies, procedures)
  • Recommend corrective action

Source: Wellness at Work (2015)

Risk assessments

 

Whenever a workplace hazard has been identified, the employer must either remove the risk completely or minimise the adverse effect where possible.

This process is called a risk assessment. Risk assessments are used to eliminate or put in place control measures to minimise the risk associated with the hazard. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) advises employers to follow five steps when carrying out a workplace risk assessment:

  • Identify the common hazards in the workplace
  • Establish which employees / areas are at risk of harm, and the nature of risk
  • Assess the risks and take action (i.e. how likely is the hazard to cause harm on a scale of 1—5, and taking action accordingly.)
  • Record findings — if you employ five or more people you are required to record in writing the main findings of the risk assessment.. As an HR representative, you should be advising people that this is a working document, and also where people can easily access the risk assessments.
  • Review risk assessments regularly

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