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Taking the risk out of risk assessments

Risk assessments don’t need to be costly or complicated, and are an essential process to be implemented before a safety system, writes Derrin Drew.

Risk assessment is the method used to identify and assess hazards associated with plants and machines. Throughout our industry, this process is widely known, however risk assessments are still viewed with scepticism.

Typically seen as either an unneces sary expense or a pointless paper shuf fling exercise, risk assessments often go completely ignored.

There are two problems with this thinking: a) without a risk assessment, control selection is premature and can often be wrong; and b) any safety controls put in place without a risk assessment could be considered completely useless.

Without a risk assessment you have no valid documentation to show the reasoning behind what you did in making the machine or process safe. Consequently, implementing safety systems without risk assessment is tanta mount to crossing the street without first looking both ways.

Risk assessments do not need to be lengthy, wordy, and expensive. They should not be a statement of one person’s opinion, and never the result of only one person’s input. Risk assessments that are compiled without any input from the operators and maintenance crew are problematic. ‘AS/NZS 4360:2004 Risk Management’ sets out communication and consultation as the first element in risk control.

Unfortunately, at this time, there is no organisation benchmarking risk assess ment professionals in our industry. In fact, there is little in the way of bench marking for any safety professionals in Australia. The Safety Institute of Australia (SIA) is currently working to rectify this with a project that will hope fully set the standard for anyone that wants to call themselves an occupational health and safety, and along with the SIA’s recent addition of a Plant and Machinery Special Interest Group, soon risk assessments will themselves be risk-free.

[Derrin Drew is the director of Sapient Industrial, a specialised plant and machine safety consulting company.]

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