Actual and potential hazards | Hasmate health and safety
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Actual and potential hazards

Actual and potential hazards

An issue with the process of hazard and risk management is that it is a bit like crystal ball gazing – identifying what is real (actual) and what is possible (potential).  This can be a challenge.

The article below highlights an interesting conundrum of being able to foresee an event, and then to plan for it in case it happens.

Read article here…

In the 1992 Health and Safety in Employment Act, the wording of “actual and potential hazards” were included, for assessing a known hazard. It’s these two words that provide an insight when considering the “now”, and what else could impact or happen in the future with the hazard. Unfortunately, these two words were omitted from the rewrite of the 2015 Health and Safety at Work Act, and it’s my opinion that this has created some misunderstanding for positive hazard and risk identification. The focus is now on the likelihood of risk and its consequences, but in combination with thinking about the “potential” of a hazard (a bit of crystal ball gazing) to cause harm – this may well  have prevented the previously mentioned prosecution.

So how can this be addressed? The 2015 Health and Safety at Work Act placed a greater emphasis on the involvement of employees, but how often are they included in the process of hazard and risk management, and what process does a business have to allow any new hazard to be brought to the attention of the management?

Subpart 2—Duties of PCBUs

36 Primary duty of care

(1) A PCBU must ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the health and safety of—

     (a) workers who work for the PCBU, while the workers are at work in the business or undertaking; and

     (b) workers whose activities in carrying out work are influenced or directed by the PCBU, while the workers are carrying out the work.

(2) A PCBU must ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, that the health and safety of other persons is not put at risk from work carried out as part of the conduct of the business or undertaking.

(3) Without limiting subsection (1) or (2), a PCBU must ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, —

     (a) the provision and maintenance of a work environment that is without risks to health and safety; and

     (b) the provision and maintenance of safe plant and structures; and

     (c)the provision and maintenance of safe systems of work; and

     (d)the safe use, handling, and storage of plant, substances, and structures.

Section 3b above is very pertinent – the maintenance of machinery, and in the case in point in focusses on the maintenance of the lifting gear. If your business uses wire ropes, chains, and strops to lift equipment, it’s important to have these checked on a regular basis. What is equally important is the eye bolts or other attachments (that the chains (or other equipment) are attached to) are to be checked or crack tested regularly. This, as some have unfortunately found out in the past, had been identified as one of the hidden or unknown potential risks.

An additional example of actual and potential hazards

To help illustrate what actual and potential hazards are for a piece of equipment (in this example, a bench grinder), we have listed them below.

Actual hazards of a bench grinder

  • No eye protection and/or safety guards in place.
  • Ejected material or metal hitting the operator in the eyes or face.
  • Long hair or loose clothing caught up in the grinding wheel – could lead to scalping or body injury.
  • Eye protection not worn – could lead to potential eye, face, or body injury.
  • The operator using safety gloves and the gloves with fingers getting tangled in the grinder.
  • The noise factor.
  • Imbalanced grinding wheel and the grinding wheel shattering.

Potential hazards of a bench grinder

  • Rest plate not adjusted to the correct angle or not used – could cause a pinch point leading to injury and damage to the equipment and material being used.
  • Gap between rest plate and grinding wheel is greater than 4mm wide – could cause a pinch point leading to injury or laceration to fingers being trapped.
  • The external wheel guards are not in place – could lead to kickbacks or jambs, resulting in hand, fingers or body injury.

Note – our Safe Operating Procedures include a section called “Potential Risks/Hazards and Harm” – and include a list of potential risks associated with the equipment, tools, environment, etc.  Our Hazard Register Templates include a section called “Causal Factors” which include a list of potential risks, the what could cause the harm.

The 200+ hazard registers are the 1st stage in effective risk management – used to identify, assess, and rate individual hazards in the workplace, and to create a control plan for minimising them.

The 230+ safe operating procedures are the 2nd stage, and are an effective and proven method for communicating (and documenting) the correct way of using a tool or piece of equipment or carrying out an activity within your workplace.  It is a training tool, and is a control used to minimise a hazard.

Please contact us if you wish to discuss this further.