Risks and Hazards
The following information in this section in green text is an excerpt from Safe Work Australia – How to Manage Work Health and Safety Risks: Code of Practice – Dec 2011 Vs1
A step-by-step process
A safe and healthy workplace does not happen by chance or guesswork. You have to think about what could go wrong at your workplace and what the consequences could be. Then you must do whatever you can (in other words, whatever is ‘reasonably practicable’) to eliminate or minimise health and safety risks arising from your business or undertaking.
This process is known as risk management and involves the four steps set out in this Code: identify hazards – find out what could cause harm
- assess risks if necessary – understand the nature of the harm that could be caused by the hazard, how serious the harm could be and the likelihood of it happening
- control risks – implement the most effective control measure that is reasonably practicable in the circumstances
- review control measures to ensure they are working as planned.
The Risk Management Process
Many hazards and their associated risks are well known and have well-established and accepted control measures. In these situations, the second step to formally assess the risk is unnecessary. If, after identifying a hazard, you already know the risk and how to control it effectively, you may simply implement the controls.
Risk management is a proactive process that helps you respond to change and facilitate continuous improvement in your business. It should be planned, systematic and cover all reasonably foreseeable hazards and associated risks
Meaning of Key Terms
Hazard means a situation or thing that has the potential to harm a person. Hazards at work may include noisy machinery, a moving forklift, chemicals, electricity, working at heights, a repetitive job, bullying and violence at the workplace.
Risk is the possibility that harm (death, injury or illness) might occur when exposed to a hazard.
Risk control means taking action to eliminate health and safety risks so far as is reasonably practicable, and if that is not possible, minimising the risks so far as is reasonably practicable. Eliminating a hazard will also eliminate any risks associated with that hazard.
Image: Fallen Mobile Crane – Manchester, England – March 2009 by Phillip Roberts
Severity of the Consequences
For each hazard, estimate the severity or consequence if something can or does transpire.
- Catastrophic – Cause death and/or major irreversible disability, and/or ill health
- Serious – Severe injury or long-term illness
- Moderate – Injury or illness requiring medical treatment and days off work
- Minor – Minor injury requiring first aid treatment
- Negligible – No injury or health effect. Treatment is not required
You can rate the likelihood of harm occurring as one of the following:
- Certain to occur – Expected to occur in most circumstances
- Very likely – Will probably occur in most circumstances
- Possible – Might occur occasionally
- Unlikely – Could happen at some time
- Rare – May happen only in exceptional circumstances
The level of risk will increase as the likelihood of harm and its severity increases. Refer to the following table.
How to Control Risks?
The most important step in managing risks involves eliminating them so far as is reasonably practicable, or if that is not possible, minimising the risks so far as is reasonably practicable.
The ways of controlling risks are ranked from the highest level of protection and reliability to the lowest as shown in the image (The hierarchy of risk control). This ranking is known as the hierarchy of risk control. The WHS Regulations require duty holders to work through this hierarchy when managing risk under the WHS Regulations
You must always aim to eliminate a hazard, which is the most effective control. If this is not reasonably practicable, you must minimise the risk
by working through the other alternatives in the hierarchy.
Dangerous Goods and Hazardous Substances
The following information of this section in green text is an excerpt from: Safe Work Australia – Managing Risks of Hazardous Chemicals in the Workplace: Code of Practice – July 2012
The “Globally Harmonised System of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals” (GHS) applies to all chemicals, hazard classes and categories under the GHS, however, it also applies to workplace hazardous substances and dangerous goods classified under the NOHSC Approved Criteria and the ADG Code, respectively. Most substances and mixtures that are dangerous goods under the ADG Code are also hazardous chemicals.
Any person conducting a business of undertaking has a responsibility under WHS laws to manage the risks from all hazardous chemicals, including those that are dangerous goods.
Image: Chemical labelling by Pishrol12
Dangerous Goods / Chemicals / Safety Data Sheets
When managing the risks, regard must be had to the following factors:
- The hazardous properties of the hazardous chemical
- Any potentially hazardous reaction (chemical or physical) between the hazardous chemical and another substance or mixture, including a substance that may be generated by the reaction
- The nature of the work to be carried out with the hazardous chemical
- Any structure, plant or system of work that:
o Is used in the use, handling, generation or storage of the hazardous chemical
o Could interact with the hazardous chemical at the workplace
The first step in managing risks involves identifying all the chemicals that are used, handled, stored or generated at your workplace in consultation with workers. The identity of chemicals in the workplace can usually be determined by looking at the label and the SDS, and reading what ingredients are in each chemical or product.
The following information in this section in green text is an excerpt from Safe Work Australia – Preparation of Safety Data Sheets for Hazardous Chemicals: Code of Practice – Feb 2016
What is a safety data sheet (SDS)?
A safety data sheet (SDS), previously called a Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS), is a document that provides information on the properties of hazardous chemicals, how they affect health and safety in the workplace and how to manage the hazardous chemicals in the workplace. For example, it includes information on the identity, health, and physicochemical
hazards, safe handling and storage, emergency procedures, and disposal considerations.
An SDS is an important tool for eliminating or minimising the risks associated with the use of hazardous chemicals in workplaces. Image” SDS Storage by Gina Randall
The SDS should be kept in a location near the work area where the substance is used.
A SDS for a hazardous chemical states the following information about the chemical:
Section 1 – Identification: Product identifier and chemical identity
Section 2 – Hazard(s) identification
Section 3 – Composition and information on ingredients
Section 4 – First-aid measures
Section 5 – Fire-fighting measures
Section 6 – Accidental release measures
Section 7 – Handling and storage, including how the chemical may be safely used
Section 8 – Exposure controls and personal protection
Section 9 – Physical and chemical properties
Section 10 – Stability and reactivity
Section 11 – Toxicological information
Section 12 – Ecological information
Section 13 – Disposal considerations
Section 14 – Transport information
Section 15 – Regulatory information
Section 16 – Any other relevant information
SDS – First Aid Measures
The SDS provides information about the initial care that does not involve the use of sophisticated equipment or access to a wide selection of medications to be given to a person affected by a hazardous chemical. It should state whether medical attention is required for a chemical, including the urgency of treatment required. Information included may cover:
- Immediate medical attention is required
- Known antidotes should be available for administration by persons trained in their use (and, where relevant, authorised by law) as part of the recommended first aid procedure
- Delayed effects can be expected after exposure
- Movement of the exposed individual to fresh air is recommended
- Removal of clothing and shoes from the individual is recommended
- Personal protective equipment (PPE) for first aiders is recommended
- There is a risk that first aiders may be exposed to risks from individuals who have ingested hazardous chemicals (for example, organophosphates).
In Australia, all medicines and poisons are classified into Schedules deeming the level of access and control over each item. This system determines at what levels medications are accessible and available to the Australian public.
There are nine scheduled levels but the five listed below are the ones that may be seen at the workplace.
Medication – Legal Requirements
Unscheduled products that are listed by the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) are classified as over-the-counter (OTC) medicines. These are readily available in supermarkets, pharmacies, health food stores, etc. and anyone can walk in and purchase the products. This includes some pain relief medications.
Currently, pain relief medications such as paracetamol (500mg), ibuprofen (200mg) and aspirin (300mg) are available in small pack sizes OTC products, while larger pack sizes are classified as Schedule 2 /Pharmacy Medicine items.
Image: Example of Pharmacy Medicine – Large packet of paracetamol
Analgesics in First Aid Kits?
The following information in the green text is an excerpt from Safe Work Australia – First Aid in the Workplace: Code of Practice – Feb 2016 Vs3
Medication, including analgesics such as paracetamol and aspirin, should not be included in first aid kits because of their potential to cause adverse health effects in some people including asthmatics, pregnant women, and people with medical conditions. This is irrespective of packet size or schedule level.
The supply of these medications may also be controlled by drugs and poison laws. Workers requiring prescribed and over-the-counter medications should carry their own medication for their personal use as necessary.
Examples of Medications that Should Not go into a First Aid Kit
Audits have been made over a number of years by authorities and have found that some businesses/organisations have had the following items in a first aid kit. Generally, people should not have direct access to items that are Schedule 2 or above.
Commonly Used Approved OTC Medications Found in a First Aid Kit
A first aider can use and apply these products on a casualty after receiving consent.
Administration of Medication
Generally, in a workplace situation, if a coworker has prescription medicine, you may assist them to take their medication but should not administer it to them.
At times, schools, child care centres, etc. may be required to administer medication to a child. This can be possible if the following has been arranged (Basic specifications mentioned as the list is quite detailed. Refer to your State Government for further details):
- The Child’s GP has determined that it is necessary
- When there is no other alternative in relation to the treatment of a specific health need
- Have medical authorisation to administer any medication to students
- The safe and correct receipt, storage, administration and disposal of medications
- The student’s health plan or action plan is followed
- Training of staff in how to administer medications for children with specialised health needs
- Have procedures and policies in place for the management of administering medications. All staff to be aware.
- Parents and school or centre to effectively work together
First aid Emergency Medication
- Adrenaline auto-injectors (EpiPen) for anaphylaxis = Schedule 3 item
- Asthma reliever (Puffer/inhaler e.g. Ventolin) for asthma = Schedule 3 item First aiders trained to use the above two types of medications even though being schedule 3 items, can administer the medications in a first aid response to a casualty.
Note: For all medications, including first aid items:
- Check that medication is in date and has not expired
- That medication is stored correctly as specified by the product
- To arrange for replacement medication once used or expired
Five Checks that Must be Made When Administering Medications
1- Right patient
- As the patient their first and last name
- Does the medication order match the patient?
2- Right medication
- Does the medication label match the order?
- Be vigilant with lookalike and sound alike medications
3- Right dose
- Does the strength and dosage match the order?
- Is it half, whole, or multiple tablets?
4- Right time
- Does the administration time match the order?
- Before administering a PRN medication, ensure specified time interval has passed
5- Right route
- Does the route match the order?
- Can this be crushed or mixed with other substances?
- Have any transdermal patches been removed?