To keep a workplace safe and healthy, employers should make sure there are no hazards to which employees and others in the workplace could be exposed. Employers should look for hazards in advance, as part of their risk management and work planning, so that potential hazards are anticipated and prevented.
In all of this employers should get the benefit of their employees' knowledge by talking to them and/or their representatives (including unions) in good faith about the best way to do things.
Employers have to put in place an effective system for identifying existing and emerging (new) hazards.
- Methods of hazard identification include:
- Physical inspections of the workplace, equipment, and work practices;
- Analysis of tasks and how they are carried out by employees in the workplace;
- Analysis of processes carried out in the workplace;
- Analysis of previous 'near miss' incidents.
Employers should then also have an effective system for responding to and managing the hazards that they identify.
How the employer responds to and manages a particular hazard will depend on the circumstances.
The preferred response is to eliminate the hazard; that is, change things so that the hazard no longer exists.
If this can't reasonably be done, the next response should be to isolate the hazard; that is, put in place a process or mechanism that keeps employees away from the hazard.
If this can't reasonably be done, then the hazard must be minimised; that is, do what can reasonably be done to lessen the likelihood of harm being caused by the hazard and to protect employees. This might include:
- providing employees with suitable protective clothing or equipment;
- monitoring employees' exposure to the hazard; and
- with their informed consent, monitoring employees' health in relation to the hazard.