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How to spot risks in the workplace

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The modern workplace can be extremely dangerous, where just a few moments of inattention or a failure to follow proper procedures can end in a shutdown, injury or death. People using machinery they have not been trained to operate, workers ignoring safety clothing regulations and shoddy or outdated equipment are common causes of workplace accidents. It is important for all workers, not just managers and site supervisors, to be fully aware of the rules and regulations addressing Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) and to be fully aware of the risks a site or activity poses before undertaking any work. Here are a few examples of workplace risks and how to identify them.

Workman climbing a ladder

Working at Heights

This is one area where you don’t want to mess around, as even a small equipment malfunction at heights can end in disaster. It is vital that safety systems are inspected and certified. In fact under the Workplace Health & Safety Act 2011 it is a duty which must be complied with. This covers the installation and inspection of the full range of equipment needed for workers including scaffolding, harnesses, ropes and weights. Consult with the experts at Safe at Heights if you are unsure of the requirements.

Talk to Employees and Contractors

The workers are often the best people to approach when you are trying to spot risks on your worksite. They are after all the ones on the ground, working with the machinery and equipment on a day-to-day basis. Organise regular morning meetings – known in the trade as ‘tool box talks’ – where workers and contractors can raise any workplace health and safety concerns from the day before.

Undertake a Walk-through

Once you have the workforce’s views, go and look for yourself. While toolbox talks are a great way to find out worker concerns about the site, nothing can beat going yourself to get a first-hand understanding of what they are facing and talking about. You might even notice a few other potential risks that are yet to come to the workers’ attention. Things to look out for are: • Manual handling of heavy items where mechanical or electronic equipment could or should be used • Tools, machinery and other equipment being used incorrectly or in need of repairs or replacement • Workers not wearing the correct safety gear such as hi-vis vests, eye goggles, ear muffs, hard hats and steel-capped boots • Hazardous substances not stored correctly.

Refer to Regulations and Codes of Practice

All jurisdictions have handbooks that outline the regulations and codes of practice to be followed on a worksite. They include OHS legislative requirements, risk management, OHS communication (such as signs and incident alerts) and incident responses. Make sure you have one with you and that other copies are available to workers at all times. Like many things in life, keeping a workplace safe and incident-free is often a matter of common sense and being observant. Be on the lookout of potential risks and ensure your workers and contractors are at all times safety conscious and you will be well on the way to a better workplace.

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