Deciding on Actions to Control Risk
Completing the risk assessment is a means to an end, not the end itself. It’s an input, not an output.
If, after conducting a risk assessment, new or improved controls are required, their selection should be determined by the principle of the hierarchy of controls, i.e. the elimination of hazards where practicable, followed in turn by risk reduction (either by reducing the likelihood of occurrence or potential severity of injury or harm), with the adoption of personal protective equipment (PPE) as a last resort.
The following provides examples of implementing the hierarchy of controls:
- Elimination – Redesign the job or substitute a substance so that the hazard is removed or eliminated.
- Substitution – Replace the material or process with a less hazardous one.
- Engineering controls – for example use work equipment or other measures to prevent falls where you cannot avoid working at height, install or use additional machinery to control risks from dust or fume or separate the hazard from operators by methods such as enclosing or guarding dangerous items of machinery/equipment. Give priority to measures which protect collectively over individual measures.
- Administrative controls – These are all about identifying and implementing the procedures you need to work safely. For example: reducing the time workers are exposed to hazards (eg by job rotation); prohibiting use of mobile phones in hazardous areas; increasing safety signage, and performing risk assessments.
- Personal protective clothes and equipment – Only after all the previous measures have been tried and found ineffective in controlling risks to a reasonably practicable level, must personal protective equipment (PPE) be used. For example, where you cannot eliminate the risk of a fall, use work equipment or other measures to minimise the distance and consequences of a fall (should one occur). If chosen, PPE should be selected and fitted by the person who uses it. Workers must be trained in the function and limitation of each item of PPE.
This means balancing the level of risk against the measures needed to control the real risk in terms of money, time or trouble. However, you do not need to act if it would be grossly disproportionate to the level of risk.
The concept can be visualised as a ‘balancing’ of risk against control.