Hazard Management in the Workplace
Hazard management is the cornerstone of health and safety management systems –
the key tool for meeting employer obligations to “take all practicable steps to prevent
harm or injury”. Using a systematic approach, we can identify and manage hazards so
people are not harmed in the course of their work.
But where do we start?
We start by defining what we mean by ‘hazard’. Put simply, we’re talking about
anything that could cause injury or illness in any way. In particular, we are interested
in “significant” hazards – those with the potential to cause serious harm or injury.
What are the legal requirements for businesses with regard to Hazard
The Health & Safety in Employment Act 1992 requires employers to identify and
assess all workplace hazards, apply appropriate controls, and communicate all hazards
to employees, contractors and members of the public. Hazards and controls must be
periodically reviewed to ensure their ongoing effectiveness, and employees must be
informed and trained in procedures to minimise harm and how to use emergency
equipment. In addition, employers must give employees an opportunity to be involved
in development of hazard management and emergency response procedures.
How do I meet Hazard Management requirements?
Step 1: Identification
Start by identifying all potential sources of harm or illness. To achieve this, there are
three key approaches you can take:
• By area and the work activities carried out in each area (focus on activities)
• By occupation and the tasks they do (focus on people and tasks)
• By the total process used to convert raw materials into product for sale or to
deliver a service (focus on process)
You’ll need to determine which approach is most suited for your type of business.
Keep in mind that each approach may have some limitations – in some cases, you
may find it beneficial to approach hazard identification from more than one point of
Step 2: Risk Assessment
Once a hazard has been identified, you’ll need to determine the level of risk
associated with it. A risk assessment takes into consideration such factors as the
frequency of exposure to the hazard, the likelihood of harm, and past history of
incidents involving that hazard. It also considers the severity of the most likely degree
of harm – an important distinction, as many hazards “could” prove fatal, but their
most likely consequence is often something less serious. To keep hazard management
practical, it must be based on realistic risk assessments – how often is it likely to
happen, and what is the most likely consequence?
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Step 3: Controls
Now that you know it’s a hazard and what the most likely consequence is, determine
what is needed to prevent that consequence. To control hazards most effectively,
apply the principles of the “hierarchy of controls” to find the more appropriate
1. Eliminate - Can you get rid of the hazard altogether – eg, stop using the
machine or chemical by re-engineering the process so it is no longer needed.
2. Isolate - provide an enclosure or barrier to minimise worker exposure to the
hazard. E.g., installation of closed pipe work to transfer hazardous substances,
enclosure of a hazardous machine or chemical process, install exhaust
3. Minimise - Personal protective equipment (PPE) is a common means of
minimising exposure risk, but it should only be used as the last line of defence
if other controls are not feasible.
Step 4: Monitor and Review
When setting up controls, determine what you can do to check that the controls are
effective. Periodic monitoring at appropriate intervals will ensure any gaps or
ineffective controls can be proactively addressed to avoid harm. Monitoring may
include examination of records of inspections, maintenance logs, registers, training
records, workplace exposure and health monitoring records, and workplace
observations, which can be checked during workplace inspections or audits.
What does the Hazard Management system need to include?
The hazard management system is inherently linked to other management systems
• Corrective actions – to ensure actions are implemented and effective
• Incident reporting – to ensure any new hazards are identified and addressed
• Contractor management – to ensure contractors are aware of existing hazards
and that any new hazards they may introduce are adequately managed
• Workplace exposure and workplace health monitoring – to measure
effectiveness of controls
• Approval of new chemicals and new equipment – to ensure all new hazards
are identified and managed
As with any management system, the hazard management system should be
periodically reviewed in its entirety to assess its effectiveness in managing hazards.
Where do I find out more?
• Approved Code of Practice for Managing Hazards to Prevent Major Industrial
• How to Manage Hazards – for Small Business: www.osh.govt.nz
• Risk Management Standard AS/NZS 4360:1999
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