Why a Health Risk Assessment is Important
Over the last decade, the nature of healthcare has been changing. Where the primary behaviour of the physician has long been reactive, it is now becoming more proactive. Many doctors are looking more closely at their patients’ lifestyle choices and proposing modifications to prevent avoidable illnesses and the subsequent need for treatment. However, a substantial proportion of one’s life is spent at work. It is, therefore, equally important for employers to prevent any adverse effects on their employees that might result from unhealthy or unsafe working conditions. Conducting a health risk assessment should be the first step. However, in this case, it is not the workers who will need to be examined but the workplace.
The Importance of Health Risk Assessments
While there might be a lot of truth in the adage that states hard work never killed anyone, unsafe workplaces do so regularly. A loose rung on an access ladder, a stray spark in a fuel store, or a missing guardrail on a bench saw could all result in severe accidents or even a fatality. However, dangers in the workplace come in many forms, and some often remain unnoticed until someone experiences the consequences. The health risk assessment begins by identifying all possible hazards to which employees may be exposed whilst at work.
However, identifying the hazards is only the starting point. It is now well established that repeated prolonged exposure to loud noise can cause hearing loss. But how loud and for how long? One must first collect and analyse the relevant data to determine whether a workplace is sufficiently noisy to pose a risk of noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL). In practice, hazards exist in most jobs. Determining whether or not they pose a significant threat to personnel is the second step in a comprehensive health risk assessment.
At this point, it’s worth noting that NIHL is not only the most common form of deafness but is also responsible for most industrial compensation claims. Ensuring their workers were not at risk of hearing loss could have saved some companies a small fortune.
However, this condition is just one of many that can have disabling consequences for employees and these are not limited to heavy industry. Those who spend most of their day seated at a desk are also vulnerable. In the office, a health risk assessment might include a review of the seating and the possibility that it might lead to postural disorders. Lower back pain is among the most common reasons for absenteeism. It is debilitating for the affected workers and places avoidable pressure on their employers. During their absence, the company must continue to pay them and possibly even hire temporary replacements.
These are just a few examples of why it is crucial to locate, evaluate, and mitigate anything that might threaten employee health and safety. Eliminating or minimising physical, chemical, biological, and ergonomic hazards is the primary task of a health risk assessment. It should be conducted by an approved inspection authority.
IOH Solutions has the approval of the Department of Labour and is approved under the SA National Accreditation System to conduct workplace occupational hygiene inspections. In addition to locating and assessing hazards, we will consult with you to develop working solutions. Please contact us if you would like to learn more or book a professional workplace health risk assessment.