The regulations clearly state that a Safe Work Method Statement (SWMS) must do a couple of important things:
- It must specify the hazards relating to the high-risk construction work
- It must specify the risks to health and safety associated with those hazards
- It must describe the measures to be implemented to control the risks
(WHS Regulation 2011: s299 (2) (3))
The key item to note here is that the legislation clearly separates the words hazard and risk, clearly defining what is required for each.
But what is the definition of Hazard and Risk? And, where is the definition to be found?
Although not specifically defined in either the WHS Act or WHS regulations, s3.2 of the Construction Work Codes of Practice 2014 states that a Hazard can be defined as anything that may cause harm e.g. Asbestos or layout of a site or, an event such as falling off a ladder.
Assessing risk within the same Code of Practice includes assessing:
- The severity of any injury or illness that could occur, for example, is it a small isolated hazard that could result in minor injury or is it a significant hazard that could have wide-ranging and severe effects and,
- The likelihood or chance that someone will suffer an illness or injury, for example, consider the number of people exposed to the hazard.
This definition of assessing risk is also supported within Risk Management Standard AS/NZS ISO 31000:2009 which states in s2.1 of the standard that risk is often expressed in terms of a combination of the consequences of an event (including changes in circumstances) and the associated likelihood of occurrence.
So, in simple terms, a hazard is the thing that may cause harm and the risk is a combination of the potential severity of that harm and, the likelihood that it will occur.
This is why SafetyCulture provides a risk matrix in every SWMS. By doing so it provides a fast and efficient way to assess the risk associated with hazards identified in the SWMS.
Workers can quickly assign a value based on the potential severity of that harm and, the likelihood that it will occur. This allows interested parties, such as principal contractors, to see that you have acknowledged and addressed both the hazard and the associated risk.
How to use the Risk Matrix?
As mentioned above, assessing the risk is based on two criteria:
- Likelihood or chance that someone will suffer an illness or injury
- Severity of any injury or illness that could occur
By combining the criteria of likelihood and severity determine the risk rating for the following:
- Inherent Risk (IR)
Determine what you believe the risk level would be before any controls are put in place. For example, if the risk was considered ‘likely’ of occurring and the severity was determined as ‘major’ the IR rating would be 4A.
Now work out what control measures you have in place, or what you will put in place, who will make sure the controls are done, and by when.
- Residual Risk (RR)
Now that control measures have been identified re-assess the risk level using the matrix and ask:
- What is the potential of injury when the controls are in place?
- What is the possible consequence, if an injury occurs when the controls are in place?
Remember: Risks are constantly evolving, make sure you keep an eye on your hazards and ensure control are added as needed to ensure the health and safety of everyone on site.