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Risk Assessment

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Updated: March 30, 2020

This article follows on from the introductory Article 1 and concentrates on probably the most important and visible area of compliance – active risk assessment, which directly or indirectly impacts on the on-going safety of workers, the public and the environment.

1. Risk Assessment

Risk Assessment procedure and implementation of controls is a critical part of any WHSE Management Plan.

Some experienced workers may intuitively assess the risks on the job and take action to mitigate the risks, without any record of their actions. It is important that any such intuitive risk assessment and applied control measures be recorded and communicated to all members of the workforce. This will ensure that their compliance is auditable when necessary, for example in the event of a serious incident, requiring Worksafe investigation.

Essential elements of a formal Risk Assessment include:

1.1 Safe Work Method Statement (SWMS)

  • SWMS shall be developed by supervision in consultation with members of the workforce, initially for a typical company landscaping/gardening operation
  • to cover site-specific physical and environmental situations.
  • Identified and assessed risks are evaluated, firstly as uncontrolled risks, and if considered unsafe controls must be applied to mitigate the risks to an acceptable level.
  • The SWMS must be reviewed and signed off by all workers at each job site and revised to include any site-specific hazards. The necessary additional controls must be implemented before commencing work.
  • SWMS is generally in a spreadsheet format, with typical examples and guidelines for risk assessment available on Worksafe website. www.worksafe.vic. gov.au>resources>safe-work-method- statements
  • The initial development and regular re-assessment can be addressed by the consideration of the following safety information in worker training and procedures.

1.2 Safe Operating Procedures (SOPs)

  • SOPs are written documents providing step by step instructions on how to  safely perform a task or activity that involves some risk to health and safety. They should be developed for all specific operations and tools/equipment  used in conducting the business. Example: www.worksafe.qld.gov.au/ data/assets/pdf file/0007/131767/process-for-developing-swps.pdf
  • The workers carrying out the procedures must be trained and licensed if required, and all training should be recorded on the Employee Training Register.
  • The risks and controls involved should be included in the SWMS.

1.3 Safety Data Sheets (SDS)

  • Landscaping/gardening inherently involves chemicals such as pesticides, weedicides and fertilisers, many of which are very dangerous if mis-handled.
  • SDS for all chemicals and materials used must be filed and recorded in an SDS Register, assessed for risks, and all workers must be trained in the safe handling and storage of the substances. Reference: www.safeworkaustralia.gov. au>sds

1.4 Pre-start or Tool Box Meetings

  • Consultative Pre-start/Tool Box Meetings should be held daily to reinforce the SWMS safety and environment considerations, encouraging participation by all workers. Reference: www.commerce. wa.gov.au/sites/default/files/atoms/files/ toolbox-pre_start_talks_form.docx
  • Recorded minutes must be displayed and filed, even if the minutes are handwritten.
  • Team meetings are opportunities for workers to air their concerns with respect to safety and environment issues, and to be heard and heeded.
  • New hazards identified must be added to the SWMS and mitigating controls addressed for action.

1.5 Site Inductions

  • Each worker and visitor on a site  should be inducted to be made aware of standard company rules and client imposed site-specific rules and hazards that need to be considered on the job. Reference: www.worksafe.vic.gov.au/ for sample checklist for  induction.
  • The individual inductions should be signed off by the inductee, acknowledging receiving and understanding the rules, and agreeing to comply.
  • Companies should keep an Induction Register and file as part of their Employee Training/Competency file.

1.6 WHSE Inspection Checklists

  • Inspection Checklists are used to identify potential hazards existing in the worksites and surrounds, with the standard checklist listing all hazards expected in a landscaping/gardening situation.
  • At each site inspections should be conducted checking for the existence  of any of the hazards listed. If additional site-specific hazards are identified they should be added to the list and SWMS and addressed at Pre-Start meetings.

1.7 Emergency Response Plan

  • All workplaces must have an Emergency Response Plan in place, with all employees and sub-contractors trained in the handling of specific events requiring urgent action to protect themselves, other workers, the neighbourhood and environment. This is a crucial part of the WHSE
  • Management Plan and must be revised to account for site-specific conditions. Reference: www.worksafeaustralia. gov.au>topic>emergency-plans-and- procedures
  • Working in bush areas workers must be aware of fire risk
  • Utility services in the work areas require accurate location, and appropriate readiness for emergency response if required.

2. WHSE Meetings

To support the company’s WHSE Policy top management must meet to review and confirm their commitment to the  Policy

every two years. Management shall address and implement measures for the continuous improvement process.

3. References

The following Acts and Regulations are the basis for all WHSE Management Plans, defining the responsibilities of employers and employees in the workplace:

  • Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004
  • Occupational Health and Safety Regulations 2017
  • Environment Protection and Biodiversity conservation Act 1999

There are many Compliance Codes, Codes of Practice, guidelines published on specific topics, which may relate to your particular business in landscaping and gardening projects, and are good references to assist in addressing hazards and risks. Refer to Worksafe websites for details.