18 February 2020

Assessing the risks in your workplace: A simple guide

If you own or run a business, managing risks in your workplace is essential to your productivity, profitability and the safety of your people. Here are some suggestions for identifying potential issues and being proactive about preventing them.

Accidents

Accidents happen but they are usually 100% preventable. Here’s some common situations where they might occur and what steps you can take to forestall them.

Common scenarios include 

  1. working at height

  2. operating machinery

  3. slips and falls.

Slips and trips result in thousands of injuries every year, according to SafeWork Australia. The most common are musculoskeletal injuries, fractures, dislocations, bruises and cuts but some can be more serious. Some of them can end up as damages cases against the premises where the accident occurred. This can be ruinously costly as settlements can run into hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Slip and trip hazards include

  • spills or wet cleaning of floor surfaces
  • sudden change in floor surface or irregularities
  • changes in floor levels, such as thresholds, doorsteps or ramps
  • obstacles in traffic areas
  • low light levels.

Risk management involves taking a systematic approach to identifying hazards and initiating control measures. Click on the image to download and print off our slip, trip and fall prevention poster and put it up where all your staff – and you - can see it every day. 

 

2148-HR Slips and Trips poster_v2

 

Injuries

Injuries at work take the form of trauma, such as a fall, burn or pulled muscle; or conditions that develop over time, like repetitive strain injuries or reactions to working with particular materials.

Some key risk factors

  1. Moving items, especially at height, because the necessary posture makes the load difficult to control properly.
  2. Handling dangerous or potentially harmful materials, including products used for cleaning.
  3. Repetitive movements and remaining in one position can lead to occupational overuse syndrome.

To assess the possibility of injuries in your workplace, do a walk-through of your premises, paying attention to your floorplan, fittings, equipment and storage arrangements as well as how work is assigned and performed.

Risk mitigation measures could include

  • ensuring workplace layout and placement of equipment enables free movement without tripping hazards
  • positioning office fittings or stock in a way that provides adequate walk-around space, clear sight lines and comfortable access
  • making sure work stations are ergonomically set up to facilitate good posture and straight-ahead viewing of computer screens
  • providing alternative ways to reach hard to access areas, such as a lifting platform
  • managing workloads to combine repetitive tasks with non-repetitive ones or scheduling frequent breaks.


Physical losses

Being robbed is highly disruptive, involving interruption, paperwork and the need to take emergency measures if vital equipment or large sums of money have been stolen. While some robberies are planned, many are crimes of opportunity, taking advantage of apparent vulnerabilities.

To reduce your chances of being a victim

  • make sure your security processes are adequate. This means having reliable locks that are kept closed and checked routinely
  • communicate your security protocols to your staff and check that they’re being adhered to. No leaving a door open for smokers!
  • regularly check and maintain security equipment
  • be selective about who has access privileges and is involved with security protocols – who has keys, security codes and is responsible for security and ensuring processes are followed.

Site security should include alarms and lighting, and you can also consider using closed circuit television (CCTV) and physical monitoring of the premises, especially during extended closure such as holidays. Similarly, securely garage your business vehicles.


Data security

Information has become a valuable commodity and no organisation is safe from targeted attacks by cyber criminals (or mistakes by employees that result in data breaches) – but you can take steps to manage the risk and minimise the impact to your business.

At a basic level these should include

  • turning on automatic updates for your computer operating system and the software you use and applying software patches as they are released
  • locking unattended devices and backing up your business’s data daily. Recovery should be part of your response plan if a data breach occurs
  • limiting access to sensitive information to as few people as practicable and applying double factor security (user name and password or phrase) controls which are not shared
  • training staff to recognise, avoid and report threats, such as fraudulent emails.


Creating your own risk management framework

Now with an awareness of potential issues in your business’s workplace your next step is to formalise a risk management plan, using the pointers below.

  1. Conducting a risk audit

    Identify hazards that present risks of injury, loss or that might compromise security.
  1. How might they occur?

    Are they environmental or process driven? What can you do to prevent or mitigate them?
  1. Assessment

    How much of a risk do they present? This helps prioritise your response plan.
  1. Strategy and actions

    How can you prevent, mitigate or manage identified risks. Who us going to be responsible for what?
  2. Review and update

    You need to reassess your framework on a regular basis and maintain staff education, inducting new and casual employees into your practices and scheduling reminder sessions.

Get expert input

Workers’ compensation is regulated under different schemes according to the state(s) where your business operates. Added to this it’s a complex area. You need to be confident that your operation is compliant with the relevant legislation.

If you’re in doubt or want to check that you’ve identified all your relevant workplace hazards and approaches to managing them, contact your broker who will work with a workplace risk insurance specialist with the knowledge and skills to help ensure you’ve covered all your bases.

 

Connect with an expert

 


Further reading

How safe is your workplace?

Workplace risk


To the extent that any material in this document may be considered advice, it does not take into account your objectives, needs or financial situation. You should consider whether the advice is appropriate for you and review any relevant Product Disclosure Statement and policy wording before taking out an insurance policy.