Step 1 - Spot hazards

To do this step successfully, you need to understand your work activities.  If you are not fully engaged in the day-to-day running of the business, you should discuss this step with your workers.

Hazards in the workplace are things that could cause harm, injury or ill health to a person. There are many ways to spot hazards in your workplace.  You may want to walk around your workplace to identify them and ask your workers’ opinion. With their experience, they may have noticed things that are not immediately obvious to you.

WorkSafe's standard checklists are a good place to start. If available, use checklists that are appropriate to your business and industry. Ignore trivial issues and concentrate on significant hazards that could cause harm or affect several people.

Proper documentation is crucial in this step. Record your activity by using the hazard identification form. Use one form to document each hazard. Keep this as your paperwork.

Integrate all identified hazards and their control measures into the safety action plan to monitor and track the progress.

Case study – Spot the hazards

A small electrical installation business was fined $500 and ordered to pay the court costs of $748 by the Magistrates Court of Western Australia in April 2014 for failing to take the practicable steps to identify the hazard, assess the risk arising from the hazard, and consider the means by which the risk may be reduced in contrary to regulation 3.1 of the Occupational Safety and Health Regulations 1996.

The business which mainly engages in solar panel installation, employed a qualified electrician, a trade assistant and a labour hire apprentice electrician to install the solar panels at the Mundaring property in February 2012. Before starting the work, the electrician got up on to the roof and had a 'look around' as a part of doing a general 'Job Safety Analysis (JSA)', an informal risk assessment exercise. It appeared to the electrician that the roof was sheeted entirely with galvanished tin. However, he failed to identify that one part of the roof comprised polycarbonate sheeting (skylights). It is common knowledge in the building and roofing industry that skylights are non-trafficable.

The electrician and the apprentice commenced work on the roof.  At about 10am, the apprentice stepped backwards over the ridge of the roof onto a polycarbonate sheet. He fell approximately 3.8 metres to the ground and required emergency surgery at Royal Perth Hospital to treat his injuries.

In this incident, the risk of suffering an injury or harm to health as a result of falling through a skylight is a ‘hazard’. In the course of his work, the apprentice was exposed to the hazard. The business had a generic JSA for solar panel installation but it did not include any requirement to check the integrity or composition of the roof surface. The copy of JSA was also not available for the workers on the day of the incident. The incident could have been prevented, if the business had rigorous procedures of safe system of work in place.

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