WHS Legislation in all states puts the primary duty of care on a Person Conducting a Business or Undertaking (PCBU) to ensure worker health and safety by eliminating or minimising risk so far as reasonably practicable. PCBU Officers such as company directors have a responsibility to exercise due diligence to ensure that the PCBU complies with the regulations. Plant designers, manufacturers and suppliers also have varying levels of responsibilities in relation to worker health and safety.
This process of managing and mitigating risk starts with a Risk Assessment. Most people have heard of a risk assessment, but often do not understand exactly what is involved. A common misconception is that all you must do is engage a safety consultant to walk through your plant, assesses the risks and write a report. This however, is not the case. The correct risk assessment process is consultative and inclusive. It requires a team of various roles (designer, operator, maintenance) familiar with running the plant and its intended use.
The risk assessment process is a step-by-step procedure of identifying the hazards, assessing the risks, applying controls to the risks and reviewing the hazards and controls for effectiveness. It usually starts with a list of guide words to prompt the team to consider the source of hazards (crushing, falling, heat etc), likelihood of occurrence, and consequences to calculate a risk score. Control measures are then selected to mitigate the risk, with the most effective layers of the Hierarchy of Controls chosen first. The hazard is then re-evaluated with these measures in place to calculate the residual risk. These risk scores are also used to determine the safety category or performance level required of any intrinsic safety system.
A risk assessment can be conducted at any time, but is specifically when setting up new plant, expanding/modifying existing plant, changing processes/work practices, changes to WHS regulations or after a workplace incident. A simple plant change may just require a stand-up, 20 minute gathering, around the hazard being assessed, while a whole plant assessment may take 2 or more days in a more formal meeting. Risk assessments may be conducted internally or facilitated by an external consultant.