Why risk the health and safety of your staff?


All working environments have some level of risk attached to the day to day activities and processes. The say "there are no second chances' is obvious and exposing your employees to uncontrolled hazardous working environments could result in unnecessary expense to the business (injuries, diseases, productivity, fines, business image, etc.). So, is there some simple way to eliminate or mitigate these business risks?

Segran Reddy, a specialist from S. Reddy and Associates (Occupational SHE Risk Management) offers insight into this matter and provides a firsthand account of how the experts do it scientifically.

According to Segran, the first phase of an effective health and safety system in the workplace begins with a risk assessment. This is commonly referred to as a Hazard Identification and Risk Assessment or H.I.R.A as a trade acronym.

Mr Reddy stresses that this process is similar to a proper diagnosis a medical doctor needs to make before administering treatment. In his words "risk management without proper risk diagnosis is risk malpractice'.

The source or root cause of the problem must be properly identified and prioritised before it can be treated or managed using a range of management protocols which will either eliminate or mitigate these risks.

This assessment needs to be completed by a team of competent risk assessors who work together in this "diagnosis' stage. He highlights the fact that if you were to receive medical treatment, you will want a trained, knowledgeable and competent professional to administer the correct treatment. Likewise risk assessments must be performed by risk assessors or someone who has the appropriate training and competencies in the health and safety field.

"Companies are required by law to identify and control health and safety risks in the workplace' says Segran. This is the key criteria of being "reasonably practicable' as described in laws like the Occupational Health and Safety Act, 1993.

The law however is relatively vague on how this should be executed in the business context, he asserts.

Segran recommends a basic three step approach which he applies when assessing work environments for possible hazards and stresses this is not rocket science, nor should it be treated as such. Just keep it simple, understandable and practical.

Step 1: Identify risks

During this step, risk assessors will physically walk around the workplace with the aim of identifying hazards. A hazard can be described as anything that could lead to an incident, endanger the health of an employee or negatively impact the environment. Once these hazards have been identified, the potential risks need to be associated to these hazards.

For example, in office environments electricity, loose cables, cleaning chemicals, workstation design, etc. would be the potential hazards. The associated risks would include electrical fires; tripping and falling; skin diseases and tension neck syndrome.

Step 2: Evaluate

Based on the results from step 1, the risks are prioritized using a simple number matrix which is commonly called the five by five matrix. The risk assessors will rate the severity and frequency of the risks identified. Asking questions like, "what is the degree of harm that employees face?? and "how often would employees be exposed to the hazard?? will help determine the level of priority.

The outcome of this stage will indicate if specific risks fall into a Low, Medium or High risk priority.

Step 3: Develop controls

Finally, once these risks are prioritized, companies should look at what reasonable measures can be implemented to eliminate or mitigate these risks. "As a minimum, companies are required to meet the minimum criteria set out by specific laws governing those risks,' says Segran.

S Reddy and Associates has over the years enabled businesses to establish the most cost effective and efficient risk control methods to suit such business needs.

S Reddy and Associates provides this service directly to its clients through consultation and training. They also provide a variety of health and safety courses which aim at improving risk competencies in business and helping to change the risk culture to that which promotes to a safe and healthy working environment.

Recently their flagship risk management course SHEMTech TM received International accreditation through IOSH (Institution of Occupational Safety and Health) in the UK. The organisation is now the first BBBEE Safety Company in the country to receive such a prestigious accolade for this specific programme.

For a more detailed overview of risk assessments join one of the health and safety courses vist S Reddy and Associates

By Cindy Payle - Skills Portal

What do you think?
Is it necessary to perform a risk assessment in an office environment?