The Occupational Health and Safety Act, 85 of 1993 hereinafter referred to as the Act, requires every employer to make a suitable and sufficient assessment of any risk to the health and safety to which any employee is exposed while he is at work and any risk to the health and safety of any person other than the persons at work against hazards arising out of or in connection with the activities of persons at work.
Objective: In line with the Act, these guidelines have been prepared to assist employers in the Iron and Steel industry to conduct an effective risk assessment at the workplace. Risk assessment is an important and necessary process for the prevention of occupational accidents and diseases and must be undertaken as part of the organization’s broader occupational health and safety activities. These guidelines provide simple steps which are required to be taken to identify any hazards at the workplace, to determine the severity of such hazards and to implement control measures to eliminate and / or control the hazards accordingly. This will lead to a healthy and safe working environment which will not only benefit workers but also improve productivity and competitiveness of the business.
As a result of the diverse nature of the industry, in that the industry is composed of the primary sector and the secondary sector, the hazards are varied and diverse and the preparation of the risk assessment document in individual organizations must reflect this diversity and shall, in fact, be work place specific.
For organizations in the iron and steel industry to effectively manage health and safety, requires joint commitment between the government, employers, workers and their representatives and this co-operation and commitment is found in the spirit of the Act and its regulations.
The relationship between these parties for the elimination or control of hazards to health and safety in the workplace is regulated as follows:
- Employers in discharging their responsibility should cooperate closely with workers and their representatives;
- Workers should cooperate closely with their fellow workers and their employer in the discharge by their employer of his duties and should comply with all prescribed procedures and practices;
- Suppliers (this sometimes means primary producers) should provide employers with all the necessary information as is available and necessary for the evaluation of any unusual hazards to health and safety that might result from a particular hazardous situation or factor.
- Employers should report incidents occurring at their workplaces for investigation purposes and with the compensation fund for adjudication
Risk Assessment Core Elements
This document is not prescriptive of the risk assessment model to be employed by an organization but, for the risk assessment process to be effective the following four steps are critical:
Hazard: – The inherent potential to cause physical injury or damage to the health of people.
Incident: – Work related event in which an injury or ill health regardless of severity or fatality occurred or could have occurred.
Risk: – the probability that injury or damage will occur
Risk Assessment: – Risk assessment is a process used to determine the level of risk of injury or illness associated with each identified hazard, for the purpose of control.
1. Hazard Identification
The identification of hazards in the workplace should take into account the following:
- Circumstances within the work processes that have a potential to result in injuries or illnesses.
- Surrounding conditions in the work environment
- Nature of injuries or illnesses that might arise from the activities, products and services: and
- Past injuries, incidents and diseases
This process of identification should as far as possible include consideration of;
- The way work is organized, managed, carried out and any changes that occur in this
- The design of workplaces, work processes, materials, plant and equipment;
- The manufacturing, installation and commissioning and handling and disposal of materials, workplaces, plant and equipment
- The purchasing of goods and services
- The contracting of plant, equipment, services and labour including contract specification and responsibilities to and by contractors;
- The inspection, maintenance, testing, repair and replacement of plant and equipment
- The impact of the hazard on the environment.
2. Risk Assessment
All risks should be assessed and have control priorities assigned, based on the established level of risk. The priority for control increases as the established level of risk increases.
The risk assessment process should take into account the likelihood and severity of injury or illness from the identifiedhazard.
This process also includes identification of groups of people who might be harmed by a particular hazard and how they might be harmed.
Section 8(2) (d) of the Occupational Health and Safety Act requires employers to establish as far as is reasonably practicable, what hazards to the health and safety of persons are associated with any work which is performed, any article or substance which is produced, processed, used, handled, stored or transported and any precautionary measures that should be taken and the provision of the necessary means to implement those measures.
There are many established methods and techniques for carrying out risk assessments. Some use a numerical weighting system to determine priorities for action. For each hazard identified, a numerical value is assigned to the likelihood of the hazard causing harm as well as to the severity of the consequences. This can be expressed on a rising scale from low to high as follows;
- Rare: has rarely if ever happened.
- Unlikely: is possible but is not expected to happen
- Possible: could be expected to happen
- Likely: will probably occur, but is not persistent
- Almost certain: occurs regularly
Severity of consequences
- Insignificant: no injury or ill health
- Minor: short term impact
- Moderate: semi-permanent injury or ill health
- Major: disabling injury or ill health
- Catastrophic: potentially fatal
The degree of risk can be represented in the following manner:
Risk = Severity x Likelihood
By determining the level of risk associated with each hazard identified in the working environment, employers and their representatives can identify areas for priority action. For example, a risk that rarely arises (1) and has insignificant consequences (1) would have the lowest priority(1) (i.e. 1×1=1), whereas a hazardous event that occurs regularly (5) and has potentially fatal consequences (5) would have the highest priority for action (25) (i.e. 5x 5= 25). The higher the level of risk, the more important it is to apply controls that eliminate, reduce or minimize exposure to the hazard.
A sample matrix that illustrates this numerical approach to the determination of the level of risk appears below:
Priority areas of action can also be determined by evaluating particular hazards in the workplace against the following priority table. Two questions need to be considered for each hazard: – How often is a person exposed to the hazard? – What is the likely outcome?. In the following table, the likelihood of an event occurring is expressed as daily, weekly, monthly or rarely, whereas the severity of consequences varies from the most severe( death or permanent disability) to the least ( minor injury requiring only first aid). The areas on the matrix shaded red represent the highest priorities for action.
3. Risk Control
Unless a particular hazard is removed, the risk associated with such a hazard can never be completely eliminated.
Organizations should plan the management and control of those activities, products and services that can or may pose a significant risk to health and safety.
The approach most commonly used is referred to as a hierarchy of control, from preferred, to least desirable. Preventive and protective measures should be implemented in the following order of priority:
Two regulations promulgated under the Occupational Health and Safety Act, 85 of 1993, regulate noise induced hearing loss and exposure to hazardous chemical substances in the iron and steel sector and in several other sectors where these hazards present themselves in the working environment. In controlling the risk associated with the iron and steel sector compliance with the regulations are of critical importance.
The process of hazard identification, risk assessment and control shall be subject to a documented evaluation of effectiveness and modified as necessary, and therefore being an ongoing process.
The evaluation exercise may include the following:
- Monitoring and review of current control measures to ensure efficiency and effectiveness e.g. (This might mean that where, in spite of the implemented control measures, there is significant residual risk the hierarchy of control will have to be reapplied).
- Reassessment when there are changes to the work process or the working environment.
- Reassessment if and when an incident occurs to address the causes of the incidents
- Update current risk assessment to reflect the above
- Periodical review to keep up with new trends and knowledge in the sector.
- Outcomes of surveys or inspections involving the health and safety of persons in the organization.
Workplace Health and Safety Management System
An effective safety management system is characterized by the following critical elements;
- A written OHS policy which is a statement of the management commitment to health and safety in the organization
- Defines and allocates various responsibilities accountabilities and authorities in the organization
- Ensures effective arrangements for the full participation of workers and their representatives in the fulfillment of the OHS policy
- Defines the necessary competencies and training needs
- Ensures the availability of information to workers in a language they can understand
- Establishes and maintains proper documentation and communication arrangements
- Identifies the hazards and carry out assessments of the specific risks to health and safety of workers in the workplace.
- Establishes hazard prevention and control measures including emergency prevention, preparedness and response arrangements
- Establishes procedures for compliance with OHS requirements in purchasing and leasing specifications for contractors on site.
- Develops, establishes and review procedures to monitor measure and record OHS performance
- Identifies and implements preventive and corrective actions for continual improvement.
Management of health and safety should be considered as a high priority management task and the policy should include as a minimum the following key principles:
- Statement of commitment by management which incorporates OHS performance as an integral part of the business performance
- Commitment to protecting the health and safety of all members of the establishment by preventing work related injuries, ill health, diseases and incidents
- Commitment to comply with relevant OHS laws and regulations, voluntary programmes, collective agreements standards and any other codes of good practice that the industry may wish to subscribe to.
- Commitment to consultation with workers and their representatives and encourage their participation
- Commitment to continual improvement of the performance of the OHS management system
Document developed by the Department of Labour South Africa