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The Importance of a Risk Assessment at Your Workplace

As you know, preventing injury in the workplace is the purpose of a risk assessment.  It is there to help remove a hazard or reduce its level of injury risk by adding precautions or control measures. It identifies those hazards and what the best precautions or control measures are for the given situation.

Would you stop your mate if you saw them about to do something unsafe or potentially dangerous?

In fact, would you even be aware of the hazards around them, and the level of chance those hazards have in causing harm to your friend if the right conditions are met?

Creating awareness around hazards and risks is not just the job of the risk assessment plan.

It is the responsibility of every worker on site.  Follow these 5 Steps to Safer Workplaces. Preventing injury is about:

1.  seeing the potential hazard and danger and bringing it to the attention of someone by speaking up, 2.  assessing it, 3.  fixing it,  4.  evaluating the fix and regularly  5.  reviewing the outcomes.S 300x300

Risk assessments are not the magic bullet for eliminating harm in the workplace, but they play a key role in any good health and safety management plan:

  • They bring attention to hazards or risk that is or could be present
  • Point out persons who may be at risk in that environment
  • Help to assess whether current control measures are up to the job, or if more still needs to be done
  • Go a long way to prevent injury or illness when done at the planning stage.
  • Allow hazards and control measures to be prioritized in organisations where attention and resources are being demanded on multiple things at the same time

As stated above risk assessments are not the cure-all. What they do is provide a platform for focus to be placed on risks that have the potential to cause injury or harm.

Risk assessments allow you to consider whether the actions and precautions you may already have in place are adequate for the risks involved. Or if you need to find suitable replacements that will do the job better. In short, risk assessments allow you to create awareness and have conversations with all those who could be affected if something went wrong.

Here is a great video called  “I chose to look the other way” – and is a true story of an incident, when the proper procedure was not followed.

What are the nuts and bolts of preventing injury in the workplace with a risk assessment plan?

Identify the Hazards

In any situation you need to work out how people could be harmed. Take a walk around your workplace and look at what could potentially be an issue or cause harm. Nothing beats physically identifying and assessing what, and where, the risks are.

Talk to staff. Someone may have identified a hazard that another has overlooked. Talking with staff gets everyone involved and helps to increase awareness and buy-in to finding and implementing solutions.

Another place to look for hazards is in manufacturers instructions and data sheets for chemicals and equipment. Often they will have listed or pointed out possible hazards to be aware of. Less obvious hazards may also be found when you look over past records of accidents or ill-health.

Aside from the hazards that can have an immediate impact don’t forget to take into consideration long-term hazards such as exposure to harmful substances or high levels of noise.

Decide Who Might Be Harmed and How

Once you have identified the hazards you need to be clear about who may be at risk. Knowing who could be affected (such as individuals or groups of people) allows you to figure out the best actions or precautions that are necessary to reduce or eliminate the potential risk.

For each group identify how they may be harmed . Some groups will have different requirements; groups such as younger workers, migrant workers, expectant mothers, disabled workers. Also consider the requirements of those groups who may not be in the workplace all of the time; cleaners, visitors, contractors, maintenance workers, even members of the public.

Evaluate the Risks and Decide What Precautions to Take.

Knowing the hazards and who is at risk does not prevent or minimise accidents or injury. You must make decisions about how to best manage those risks.

Look at what actions you already take in your workplace. What controls do you have in place today? How is the work organised? Take the time to do a comparison between where your organisation is right now and good practice, then decide if there is more you should be doing to bring your workplace up to standard.

A good question to consider is whether you can eliminate the hazard altogether. If you cannot, how can you best control the risk so a harmful outcome is unlikely? Some options to consider with controlling risk include:

  • Trying a less risky option (eg: use a less hazardous chemical)
  • Organise work to reduce exposure to the hazard (such as traffic barriers)
  • Issue personal protective equipment
  • Provide welfare facilities (eg: first aid and washing facilities for removal of contamination)

Record Your Findings and Implement Them

Your risk assessment needs to be put into practice, otherwise nothing will improve and lives can be lost. Failure to implement precautions to hazards will cost you if an accident occurs.

Writing down your results provides you with a tangible record to be used as a reference for future assessments and improvements.

A point to consider. Your risk assessment should be “suitable and sufficient”. This implies that it is relevant and appropriate for the situation and environment, and reasonable in that you take into account best practice and advice as well as Approved Codes of Practice, Codes of Guidance and of course legislative requirements.

Suitable and sufficient is based on the knowledge you have at the time of undertaking the risk assessment.

Your recordings should show that proper checks have been made:

  • You asked who might be affected
  • You dealt with all the obvious significant hazards
  • The precautions are reasonable, and any remaining risk is low
  • The appropriate staff members were involved in the process

During implementation if you find there are a lot of improvements to make, don’t try to fix everything at once. Create an action plan to resolve the highest risks first and work your way through. Otherwise you end up with overwhelm, procrastination sets in, and nothing changes until an accident or injury occurs that could have been prevented.

Review Your Assessment and Update When Necessary

Nothing stays the same. At some stage new equipment, substances, and procedures will come into your workplace. It is common sense to review your risk assessment on an ongoing basis.

If a significant change happens before your review, don’t wait. Check your risk assessment and if you need to, change it. When you are planning a change is one of the best times to think about your assessment.

Are there any improvements you need to make? Has anyone seen a problem? Have any near-misses or accidents taught you anything. It becomes easy to forget about reviewing your risk assessment, until something goes wrong and it becomes too late. Keep your assessments up to date.


When doing a risk assessment, take into account the methods and procedures used in your workplace, the actual  and potential exposure of the workers, and the measures and procedures necessary to control such exposure through work practices, engineering controls, hygiene practices and facilities.

Remember your risk assessment needs to take into account the current state of the workplace AND any potential situation as well.

Are risk assessments the golden cure-all salve that will eliminate all accidents and injury from the workplace and allow “zero-harm” to move from fiction to reality? Not at all. But isn’t it better to go into a situation with your eyes wide open?

Risk assessments encourage awareness of the real and present hazards and risks in the workplace. A good risk assessment thereby is a tool used for preventing injury in the workplace. They also benefit the workplace through increased dialogue and communication between all staff members about individual safety.

If you only have one safety stand down a year, please consider me next time, as my story will make them think!.

Go here to contact us should you wish to find out more.


  • You have been given a gift as a Life Saver

    I sat through your presentation yesterday with mixed emotions those of sadness, sorrow, anger… where you can directly and indirectly impact and change the lives of many… you have been given a great gift of a Life Saver to many but at a tremendous personal sacrifice. I have asked myself what could I do for Hawk, my families, peers, colleagues and friends and came up with — Think and act safely in everything I do and ask / tell others to do the same to protect them from harm. 97.8% of our delegates said Hawk’s presentation was excellent / good.

    Rick Alcock, National Manager, Construction Oil & Gas L&H Group
  • Inspired by his words

    Yesterday both myself & Ashlea Wright were invited to attend the Shell Global Safety day at the Pinkenba terminal on behalf of G4S Secure Solutions. As part of the presentation, we were privileged to listen to Hawk Vagg and his story relating to the accident in 1998. Hawk’s powerful and heart wrenching description of the events, & the people affected by that day in 1998, left both myself & Ashlea moved & inspired by his words. Hawk’s message has had a huge impact on my approach to everyday moments in life & highlighted the need to be vigilant & remain safe wherever we are in life, be it at work or home. In conjunction with Shell’s presentation, it was an uplifting & educational approach to what remains a common goal amongst us all – a safe workplace/environment. On behalf of G4S, I would like to thank Shell for extending the invitation. I wish Hawk Vagg continued success with his presentations around the country and personally thank Hawk for raising my safety awareness to a higher level of appreciation. Good Luck Hawk. Thank you all.

    John Broughton Branch Manager QLD G4S Secure Solutions
  • The boys comment about things you made them aware of in your presentation

    Hello Hawk, better late than never, I would like to thank you for the day you spent here on site. As recently as a week ago, some of the boys comment about things you made them aware of in your presentation. The feedback has been very good and attitude to safety awareness have changed for the better. Your posters are a very good reminder for the workers, not just the workers that were there on the day, other workers have commented on them as well. I believe the effects of your visit will assist in keeping the safety awareness on the right track for some time.

    Russelll Mallett, Safety Officer Dalrymple Bay Coal Terminal Pty Ltd
  • It made a real impact on everyone

    Hi Hawk, I hope you are well. The guys are still talking about your presentation, it made a real impact on everyone. We are making a poster and just wanted to check with you if it was ok to use your “mantra” — “She’ll be right mate, But… what if I am wrong”

    Greg McCluand, Plant Manager, Iplex Pipelines Australia Pty Ltd
  • Choices and consequences

    Hawk shared his story with the Moorvale team and left everyone with a powerful message to stop and think about the choices you make and the consequences they could have on you and the people around you.

    Nicole Challen from Leighton Contractors Moorvale Mine
  • A very relevant and worthwhile experience

    I just wanted to let you know that we had great feedback for Hawk ranging from our Sub-Contractors, Business HSEQ Director and Regional Director. Thank you for assisting with the organisation of what was a very relevant and worthwhile experience.

    Laura Greene Laing O’Rourke OHS – Port Botany
  • I could see it made an impact on the lads

    I just wanted to say that I thought your speech / presentation was brilliant, it was a very hard hitting speech that I could see it made an impact on the lads. I thought it was well delivered and your detailed description of the accident really hit home. I was especially moved by the aftermath of your accident and the way it’s affected you and your life.

    Neil O’Donnell, H&S Advisor Port Botany Laing O’Rourke
  • I took away some personal reflections and timely reminders

    I would like to take this opportunity to express my gratitude and thanks for your heart-felt and very personal presentations here for us at Toowoomba Regional Council. I have received very positive feedback from attendees at both sessions you delivered last Wednesday. Overall, I took away some personal reflections and ‘timely reminders’ to remember about some of the decisions we make in life, especially around keeping safe both personally and for those around us.

    Andy Van der Syde – Toowoomba Regional Council, Senior Organisational Development Officer
  • You are an inspiration

    Hi Hawk! Thanks so much for speaking with us today at Pacific Seeds. It made a huge impact and I’ve already had many staff members tell me how beneficial the talk was and that it really made them think. We’ve even got a worker who has now decided to call the professionals at home to do a job that her and her husband had planned to do this weekend. You are an inspiration and I look forward to seeing you in the near future for phase 2.

    Michelle Lennox, Occupational Health & Safety Office of the Toowoomba Branch of Pacific Seeds
  • Accolades and praise for Hawk Vagg’s safety presentation

    In short — bloody awesome Hawk was fantastic. He was extremely professional but also down to earth and realistic. They presented and pitched the session at exactly the right level for the audience. I am sure Hawk was able to “turn on a few lights” as I like to say. I know that some of the audience, particularly the younger workers, found it confronting initially but with Hawk’s style and honesty everyone left the room with a stronger resolve to take the actions they need to in their work fronts.

    Mike Tierney, CMC
  • Your message was very clear

    Hi Hawk, I would like to thank you for coming to our project recently to deliver your powerful safety message from your own personal experience to our BSO project employees, the message of complacency, not looking after yourself and your workmates was very clear with the outcome if you carry out an unsafe act it will change your family, friends and your life forever. The days you were here on site changed the way people looked at the safety of themselves and others and has continued since you left, your name and circumstance is often raised out in the field by the employees, at prestart and induction to site. Thanks once again and will see you again on another job.

    Regards Russell Barham | Lead EHS Specialist. Broadmeadow Sustaining Operations Project Site Address: Gate 18, Red Hill Road, PMB Moranbah QLD 474
  • I enjoyed your talk

    I enjoyed your talk and will stop and think about what you said next when going to cut corners.

    Nathan Otago

    Hi mate! or should I say LEGEND! I had a bad day yesterday dealing with stuff, Thought I had it bad! I was speechless listening to your journey! Mate you will forever be in my thoughts.

    Masey Jase
  • You could have heard a pin drop,

    Hi Hawk, I would like to thank you on behalf of Bechtel Equipment Services Gladstone for coming to our yard recently. Your presentation sent a powerful safety message to our employees from your own personal experiences. You could have heard a pin drop, the employees were so intentive. You really brought home the message of safety. We are looking forward to your next presentation.

    Bechtel Equipment Services Gladstone
  • Mate you are an insperation keep it up.,

    Hi Hawk. I felt compeled to contact you after hearing you speak to us at Commodore mine Millmerran on the 29/05/13. Mate keep telling your story if it saves one person suffering what you have gone through it will be a good outcome. Made me stop and think, Hawk i have done the same thing that you did and got away with it pure luck on my part. Mate you are an insperation keep it up.

    Regards Les Goodall