Ahead of hosting a webinar on redefining risk management, Evotix’s Langdon Demont gives an overview of what it really means and what steps you can take to embed it in your workplace.
Most people are more familiar with the consequences of a health and safety failure — the incident or failure itself, post-incident investigations, analysis and corrective actions — than the preventative measures employees, supervisors and management take every day to keep workplaces healthy and safe. After all, when a hazard is identified and eliminated before causing an incident, it doesn’t make headlines. That’s a good thing, but it also means that our society tends to focus on the reactive side of health and safety.
It’s true that both reactive and proactive measures are important for a well-rounded health and safety system. This article will discuss the benefits of a proactive process: health and safety risk management.
What is health and safety risk management?
The American Society of Safety Professionals (ASSP) defines health and safety risk management as “a formal process for identifying hazards, evaluating and analyzing risks associated with those hazards, then taking action to eliminate the hazards or control the risks that can’t be eliminated to minimize injury and illness potential”.
In simpler terms, health and safety risk management is a series of steps organisations take to minimize risk as much as possible before work begins.
The HSE (Health and Safety Executive) in the UK advises these steps:
Step 1: Identify hazards.
Step 2. Assess the risks.
Step 3. Control the risks.
Step 4. Record your findings.
Step 5. Review the controls.
To learn more about how you can implement proactive health and safety management in your organization, check out our blog, The Difference Between Proactive and Reactive Health & Safety Management.
What does proactive health and safety risk management look like?
Improving your organisation’s health and safety risk management usually means boosting the effectiveness of health and safety processes. For example, your organisation might:
- Start a company-wide campaign aimed at increasing hazard awareness and reporting
- Ensure Job Hazard Analysis and various risk assessments are implemented and successfully utilised
- Implement a software solution with a risk assessment module to allow employees easier access to essential information
- Understand the importance of focusing on the jobs in the workplace, versus strictly the hazards.
The key to health and safety risk management
Making these changes is a great way of improving your health and safety risk management, but the key to success is in the details.
As your organisation undergoes these improvements, it’s important to consider the individual components of each job or task under review. Instead of settling for listing the typical risks associated with operating a forklift, for instance, take stock of the unique, task-specific circumstances involved in the way an employee needs to operate the forklift to complete their task.
The best way to do this is to gather as much employee input as possible. Only workers know the realities of completing a task. If they’re encouraged to share their experiences and insights, your organization will be able to make the job safer and easier for everyone.
What can we achieve by improving health and safety risk management?
As we begin to improve our health and safety risk management, what are we aiming for?
- Lower incident rates. By improving our proactive measures, like hazard recognition and reporting and job assessments, we’ll become more cognisant of our workplaces and begin understanding where hazards and further risks can be exposed.
- Create more engagement and deeper levels of awareness. With employees, supervisors and management involved, greater awareness of the jobs and their requirements will be made, and a deeper understanding where hazards are associated in everyday tasks, and how to minimize them, will be brought into the wider health and safety conversation.
- Enable us to focus our attention on SIFs. Our industry has recently undergone a mindset shift regarding serious injuries and fatalities (SIFs). Instead of expecting SIFs to decrease at the same rate as minor incidents, we see them decreasing at a slower rate. This is because not all hazards have the potential to become SIFs. With a deeper understanding of the jobs and what’s required within those jobs, and the specific hazards that can cause SIFs, we can prioritize addressing those hazards and lower the rate of SIFs.
Improving your organization’s health and safety risk management is a great way to reduce incidents, increase engagement and renew your focus on SIFs. As you review your proactive processes, keep in mind the importance of closely considering the individual components of each task under review. Remember, the key to success in health and safety risk management lies in the details.
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