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Many companies that have realised the need and importance of a health and safety system and have some knowledge of the Occupational Health and Safety Act should be familiar with section 8 of the Act.

“ 8(1) Every employer shall provide and maintain, as far as reasonably practical, a working environment that is safe and without risk to the health of his employees.”

The section goes into further detail establishing the duties of the employer pertaining to section 8(1)

“8(2)(d) establish as far as reasonably practicable, what hazards to the health or safety of persons are attached to any work which is performed…..”

Therefore Section 8 of the Occupational Health and Safety Act is implying that  Risk Assessments are required but not implicitly stating that employers are legally required to perform Health Risk Assessments in their workplaces. This means that many employers only perform basic Occupational Hygiene surveys that would most typically include an assessment of illumination, noise and ventilation with a few dust samples or welding fumes taken. Now there is nothing wrong with this except that by having no formal risk assessment process many hazards are not identified and so many stressors are not ever measured.  Over and above that, there are also a few other benefits and advantages to performing health risk assessments which we can discuss here:

  1. Health Risk Assessments allow you as an employer to identify all your health risks and focus on the priorities:  Any good Health Risk Assessment will include a risk rating matrix that allows all hazards identified to be calculated. This allows you as employer to see which risks are high priorities and should be mitigated first. This allows you to plan and budget to make sure that you “fix” the most important elements of your plant first leaving the less significant controls for a later stage.
  2. Health Risk assessments also provide you with the documentation needed for legal compliance with the Department of Labour and audits that may be performed on at your workplace
  3. Health Risk Assessments can be used to develop and plan a monitoring programme for stressors, which can help with financial planning for assessments that will arise form the risk assessment
  4. Health Risk assessments should also be used to assist in the development of the medical surveillance program as well as the requirements that employers have for pre-employment medicals and man-job specifications
  5. Health risk assessments can save employers money as proper risk calculations will not only highlight priority areas but also highlight low risk areas that may otherwise be included in the monitoring programmes

 

It is therefore recommended that a thorough baseline health risk assessment be performed before you embark on any monitoring programme or strategy. Well planned Occupational Hygiene Programmes and strategies not only show that you as an employer are serious about legal compliance but also show your employees that you are serious about their health.