Health Risk Assessment | Industrial Hygienist

Exposing Hidden Workplace Dangers With a Professional Health Risk Assessment

Workers are frequently threatened by unseen hazards that could cause serious illnesses or injuries. Only a thorough health risk assessment will expose these. Before expanding on this topic, some clarification is necessary.

This procedure should not be confused with examinations conducted by physicians. Their purview is to determine whether a prospective employee is physically capable of safely handling various strenuous tasks or whether existing workers are fit for work following an injury or illness. By contrast, this type of health assessment is technical rather than medical. It focuses on any aspects of the working environment that might pose a threat to the health and safety of employees, visitors and the surrounding area.

Even the most safety-conscious employers frequently remain unaware of the more subtle hazards that may be present and the possible impact on their staff. In practice, it is often only due to unusually high levels of absenteeism from similar injuries and illness that employers suspect there may be a work-related explanation. Such information can be invaluable to those conducting the investigation, so preliminary discussion with management and staff is an essential starting point.

The industrial hygienist’s role in health risk assessment

Health and Safety Risk Assessment - Health Risk Assessment

The tasks undertaken by these trained specialists require a unique combination of experience, intuition, observational skills and technical expertise. Experience provides direction based on lessons learned from previous projects. Intuition is essential to anticipate the unexpected. A keen eye ensures awareness of even the most minute details while validating the findings requires a sound knowledge of analytical equipment and techniques.

Armed with the input from the opening discussion, the hygienist is now aware of any worrying trends that appear to need investigation. Based on this information and previous observations, the assessor can then begin the search for any physical, chemical or biological hazards that might put workers at risk, using the techniques and equipment relevant to each of these three categories. Once a threat has been confirmed, the next step in the health risk assessment is to calculate how much risk, for example, a toxic chemical poses, which of the company’s workers could be vulnerable and whether countermeasures are in place and sufficiently effective.

The benefits of a health risk assessment

  • Maintain maximum productivity:

    Identifying and countering health and safety threats helps maintain a workforce that is always sufficient to meet your production goals.

  • Limit avoidable costs:

    Colds and flu are unavoidable and responsible for a significant percentage of short-term absences from work. By contrast, prolonged absence due to work-related conditions can be avoided but are responsible for most of the billions of Rands in expenses and lost production borne by South African industries annually. A professional assessment offers a cost-effective solution.

  • Avoid compensation claims:

    Permanent disabilities and chronic illnesses acquired at work are eligible for substantial compensation. Eliminating these at source offers protection from crippling claims.

  • Boost employee loyalty

    : Staff turnover is often high, leading to frequent unbudgeted recruitment costs. Workers whose employers demonstrate concern for their health and safety feel more appreciated and are often more willing to go the extra mile.

IOH Solutions can help

Our accredited occupational hygienists operate in Gauteng and the Eastern and Western Cape and are dedicated to protecting employee health and safety. We invite you to contact us to arrange a health risk assessment.