Enhanced Workplace Risk Management
What is Risk Management (RM) and why is it important in the workplace?
Risk Management is an important tool to identify hazards, assess risk, and implement measures to control or minimise risk.
Why do we need Risk Management?
Every worker has a right to go home safe and healthy every day. We can prevent our injuries and ill-health at work. Companies with proper Risk Management practices also enjoy higher productivity, improved staff morale and better corporate image.
To help companies better assess risks and hazards at workplace, the Ministry of Manpower and the Workplace Safety and Health Council have revised and launched the Code of Practice on WSH Risk Management in February 2015.
Risk Management should be pragmatic, focused on reducing risk at source and holistic. A pragmatic approach to Risk Management involves identifying all hazards that may arise from work. Evaluating the risk and adopting the right control measures which are suitable and compatible to the work processes or environment. All workers need to understand the hazards they face in their work activities. Therefore, it is important to communicate all information and identified hazards and the corresponding risk controls to employees.
Employers should regularly review the Risk Assessment with employees input during committee meetings and ensure that control measures are implemented on ground. Risk Management is also about reducing risk at source. What does that mean? It means finding the appropriate risk control method to reduce risk in the work you do!
In the Hierarchy of Controls, the control methods include:
- Engineering Controls
- Administrative Controls
- Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
Always try to first eliminate the risk. If you cannot, look at what you can substitute the hazard with. Some examples of eliminating risk at source:
- Use paint rollers with extendable handles instead of A-frame ladders when painting low walls and ceilings to eliminate risks from working at heights.
- Use electric stackers instead of lifting loads manually to eliminate ergonomics risks.
If elimination is not possible, the second most effective measure is substitution! This involves replacing equipment or hazardous materials used with substitutes that present lower risks. Some examples of substitution:
- Substitute solvent-based chemicals which are highly flammable with water-based ones to eliminate the risk of fire and reduce storage of flammable material in the workplace.
- Replace scaffold use when working at height with a boom lift.
If both first two approaches are not feasible, use engineering controls or administrative measures. Engineering controls include structural changes to the machine, process, or surroundings to reduce the risk. For example:
- Carry out spray painting in a spray booth to reduce chemical exposure.
- Use acoustic enclosure for machines to reduce noise exposure to surrounding workers.
Administrative controls include measures such as:
- Safe Work Procedures and Design of Job Task.
- Training of workers and constant hazard communication to reduce risk.
- Provide workers with sufficient breaks between work tasks or job rotation to reduce exposure to risk at work.
After considering Elimination, Substitution, Engineering Controls and Administrative Controls, determine the appropriate PPE to address residue risks. Use of Personal Protective Equipment is the last line of defence against hazards!
Finally, we should take a holistic approach to Risk Management. This means considering individual, job and organisational factors that can compromise workers ability to work safely. Individual factors look at a worker’s health conditions which are important to determine if he is suitable for the job.
Job factors address conditions of workplace equipment and design. Organisational factors focus on the work culture, workload, and training of workers. Taking a holistic approach in Risk Management also means not just looking at safety hazards but health hazards resulting from exposure to noise, chemicals, and ergonomics risk factors. This is especially important for individuals who have pre-existing health conditions.
Together we can prevent all injuries and ill-health at work!
This is an e-learning topic in the SkillsFuture approved WSH Course!