Element 1

Determine areas of potential risk in the building and construction workplace.

Hazards and risk in the workplace

The Regulation Part 3 — Workplace safety requirements in Division 1 — 12 cover all issues of the workplace. Other risk that must be considered are found in Part 4-Plant and Part 5-Hazardous substances.

After an accident or dangerous incident, an investigation is vital and every detail counts. It provides valuable information that can assist in determining what happened and the actions required to prevent a similar incident in the future.

One of the duties of SHRs is to participate in investigations for all occupation in the building industry. However, investigations should be carried out by a team so everyone can contribute their skills and expertise. A common practice in an accident/incident investigation is to look for the cause. This can be restrictive as it focuses attention on only one, or at best a very few, of the risk factors. Others, that may be more easily controlled, pass unnoticed. SHRs and their employers need to investigate accidents or incidents. There are publications that provides information on how to conduct an investigation and what to look for during the investigation. Here are some points:

  • events leading up to the accident;
  • facts of the incident itself;
  • acts regarding what occurred immediately after the incident; and
  • essential factors and causes.
  • Table 3.1 (extracted from Risk assessment website)

    1 Could people be injured or made sick by things such as:·
    Noise, Radiation and Other Exposures
    Common hazardous substances
    Infectious Diseases
    High or low temperatures
    Moving or falling things (or people)
    Flammable or explosive materials
    Things under tension or pressure (compressed gas or liquid; springs)
    Any other energy sources or stresses

    3 Can workplace practices cause injury or sickness?·
    Are there heavy or awkward lifting jobs?
    Can people work in a comfortable posture?
    If the work is repetitive, can people take breaks?
    Are people properly trained?
    Do people follow correct work practices?
    Are there adequate facilities for the work being performed?
    Are universal safety precautions for biohazards followed?
    Is there poor housekeeping?
    Look out for clutter
    Torn or slippery flooring
    Sharp objects sticking out
    2 What could go wrong?·
    What if equipment is misused?
    What might people do that they shouldn't
    How could someone be killed?
    How could people be injured?
    What may make people ill?
    Are there any special emergency procedures required?

    4 How might these injuries happen to people?·
    Broken bones
    Eye damage
    Hearing problems
    Strains or sprains
    Cuts or abrasions
    Poisoning· etc

    How to assess the risks in your workplace

    Don’t overcomplicate the process. In many organisations, the risks are well known and the necessary control measures are easy to apply. You probably already know whether, for example, you have employees who move heavy loads and so could harm their backs, or where people are most likely to slip or trip. If so, check that you have taken reasonable precautions to avoid injury.

    If you run a small organisation and you are confident you understand what’s involved, you can do the assessment yourself. You don’t have to be a health and safety expert.

    If you work in a larger organisation, you could ask a health and safety advisor to help you. If you are not confident, get help from someone who is competent. In all cases, you should make sure that you involve your staff or their representatives in the process. They will have useful information about how the work is done that will make your assessment of the risk more thorough and effective. But remember, you are responsible for seeing that the assessment is carried out properly.

    When thinking about your risk assessment, remember:

  • a hazard is anything that may cause harm, such as chemicals, electricity, working from ladders, an
  • open drawer etc

  • the risk is the chance, high or low, that somebody could be harmed by these and other hazards,
  • together with an indication of how serious the harm could be.

    a)  Identify the hazards

    First you need to work out how people could be harmed. When you work in a place every day it is easy to overlook some hazards, so here are some tips to help you identify the ones that matter:

  • Walk around your workplace and look at what could reasonably be expected to cause harm.

  • Ask your employees or their representatives what they think. They may have noticed things that are
  • not immediately obvious to you.

  • If you are a member of a trade association, contact them. Many produce very helpful
  • guidance.

  • Check manufacturers’ instructions or data sheets for chemicals and equipment as they can be very
    helpful in spelling out the hazards and putting them in their true perspective.

  • Have a look back at your accident and ill-health records – these often help to identify the less
  • obvious hazards.

  • Remember to think about long-term hazards to health (eg high levels of noise or exposure to
  • harmful substances) as well as safety hazards.

    b)  Decide who might be harmed and how

    For each hazard you need to be clear about who might be harmed; it will help you identify the best way of managing the risk. That doesn’t mean listing everyone by name, but rather identifying groups of people (eg ‘people working in the storeroom’ or ‘passers-by’).

    In each case, identify how they might be harmed, ie what type of injury or ill health might occur. For example, ‘shelf stackers may suffer back injury from repeated lifting of boxes’.


  • some workers have particular requirements, eg new and young workers, new or expectant mothers
  • and people with disabilities may be at particular risk.
    Extra thought will be needed for some hazards;

  • cleaners, visitors, contractors, maintenance workers etc, who may not be in the workplace all the
  • time;

  • members of the public, if they could be hurt by your activities;

  • if you share your workplace, you will need to think about how your work affects others present, as
  • well as how their work affects your staff – talk to them; and

  • ask your staff if they can think of anyone you may have missed.
  • Explore the WorkSafe and other websites for hazard identification & risk assessment

    Hazards iIdentified and documented

    Categorising hazards

    Workplace hazards are not always obvious. Some hazards can result in long-term health effects rather than an immediate injury. For example, exposure to loud noise over a period of time can result in hearing loss; or contact with a solvent can cause dermatitis.

    To assist in identifying hazards, they may be categorised as follows:

  • The obvious hazard is apparent to the senses (e.g. unguarded machinery, building
  • defects, faulty electrical equipment).
  • The concealed hazard is not apparent to the senses (e.g. electricity, presence of toxic vapours,
  • or high frequency noise).
  • The developing hazard cannot be recognised immediately and will develop over time (e.g.
  • a worn tyre on a mobile crane and frayed steel cables).
  • The transient hazard is an intermittent or a temporary hazard (e.g. overload of machinery,
  • when a confined space permit has expired, a sticking safety valve on a boiler, intermittent
    electrical or mechanical defect).

    It is important to remember that a hazard may become more obvious and easily identifiable when a person actually performs a task. This is often the case with ergonomics or manual tasks.

    To make the job of identifying hazards in the workplace easier, prepare and establish the context for the risk management process. This involves identifying:

  • all activities involved in work processes and tasks;
  • who is involved in those activities; and
  • items of plant or materials that are used.

  • Then make a list of all the hazards at the workplace.

    Hazard Reports

    Effective hazard reporting is essential for successful hazard management and to meet expected outcomes.

    Implementing the use of Hazard Reports will encourage your staff to identify and report hazards. You can then implement controls before an injury occurs. Encourage staff to complete Hazard Reports for any situation which requires actions beyond simple maintenance.

    Hazard Reports should be:

  • completed by anyone - employees, managers, contractors, volunteers or residents/families
  • signed by the person who completes them
  • investigated, and improvements planned and implemented by the director/supervisor (in
    consultation with staff)
  • signed by a Health and Safety Committee member or employee representative (if there is one)
  • discussed at a Health and Safety Committee or staff meeting.

  • After discussion at a meeting, you should include comments on the effectiveness of action taken on the Hazard Report and Hazard Log. Provide feedback to the staff member who reported the hazard.

    Another useful resource is the Safety Handbook for the Building and ConstructionIndustry 2013

    Information provided in the above publication is designed to address the most commonly raised issues in the workplace relevant to OH&S-legislation.
    Go now to Element 2