Step 1- identify hazards

There must be an active process for identifying hazards in the workplace and hazardous jobs undertaken by workers and students.

The term “Hazard” should be interpreted as anything that may jeopardise the health, safety or welfare of workers, students or visitors. In an office environment, hazards may typically include manual handling (of office equipment), overuse injury (from mouse and keyboard use), work related stress, noise, glare, trip hazards etc.

Managers and supervisors should be familiar with their “top five” hazards or WHS risks. Risk management Step 2: Prioritise helps to discern this top five.

Hazards and hazardous jobs can be identified by:

  • reviewing incident reports and records to find out what has gone wrong in the past and could be problematic in future.
  • observing work activities to see whether safety precautions are in place and being used correctly, or whether the people involved are at risk of injury.
  • asking staff and students to raise work health and safety matters during regular discussions eg. during work group meetings (formal or informal). This might include discussion of recent incidents, maintenance issues, suggested improvements etc.
  • reviewing standard operating procedures to ensure that safety aspects have been satisfactorily addressed
  • referring to labels, instructions and literature that relates to a particular workplace or activity. These may contain information about particular hazards and how the associated risks can best be managed. Typical literature includes operator manuals, safety data sheets, industry bulletins, journals etc.
  • observing indicators such as high absentee rates, low morale, conflict between employees, ill-health, fatigue and poor work quality. These may signify that work demands are beyond the capacity of the workers.

Typical hazards or hazardous jobs include:

  • keyboard work for long periods without a break
  • activities that involve lifting or carrying materials or equipment
  • trip hazards like trailing cords, frayed carpet or boxes in walkways
  • using a hazardous substance for cleaning or in a laboratory process
  • noise generated by machinery or during loud events
  • solar heat and UV radiation when working outdoors
  • working with micro-organisms that may cause infection
  • working with sources of ionising radiation
  • working with animals that could bite, kick, crush, or transmit disease
  • dealing with clients or other people who are potentially violent
  • working with sharp instruments, e.g. needles and blades
  • working with or close to machinery with moving parts
  • driving long distances to or from fieldwork.