A risk assessment is a systematic examination of a task, job or process that you carry out at work for the purpose of; Identifying the significant hazards that are present (a hazard is something that has the potential to cause someone harm or ill health).

Three types of risk assessments:

  • Baseline risk assessments (Baseline HIRA)
  • Issue based risk assessments (Issue based HIRA)
  • Continues risk assessments (Continues HIRA)

Baseline risk assessments (Baseline HIRA)

Purpose of a baseline risk assessment

The purpose of conducting a baseline HIRA is to establish a risk profile or a set of risk profiles. It is used to prioritise action programmes for issue-based risk assessments.

It should be performed to obtain a benchmark of the types and size of potential hazards, which could have a significant impact on the whole organisation. They need to identify the major and significant risks, then prioritise these risks and evaluate the effectiveness of current systems for risk control.

It must be emphasised that the baseline is an initial risk assessment that focuses on a broad overview in order to determine the risk profile to be used in subsequent risk assessments. A baseline risk assessment focuses on the identification of risk that applies to the whole organisation or project.

This type of assessment could be performed on a site, region or even on a national basis concerning any facet of the organisation operations or procedures. This assessment needs to be comprehensive and may even lead to other and more in-depth studies.

The output of a baseline risk assessment

  • it is a risk profile or set of risk profiles
  • it is a clear description of the methodology, system, terminology etc. used in the scoping exercise, and what may be required for the improvement of the baseline HIRA in the future.

Examples of baseline risk assessments

  • Hygiene and Health Surveys (Noise, Lighting, Ventilation, Temperature Extremes)
  • Environmental Impact and Aspect Registers
  • Fire Risk Assessments

Issues based risk assessment (Issue based HIRA)

Purpose of an issue based risk assessment

The purpose of conducting an issue-based HIRA is to conduct a detailed assessment study that will result in the development of action plans for the treatment of significant risk.

This type of assessment is normally focused on at operational activities, processes and systems based business functions. It focuses the identification of the risks within a certain task, process or activity and is usually associated with the management of change.

Risk profiles from the baseline HIRA form the basis for establishing issue-based HIRA programmes.

The issue-based HIRA programme can be modified when necessary due to, for example:

The output of a an issue-based risk assessment

The output of an issue-based HIRA is clear recommendations to management for further action in terms of Section 11(2) of the MHSA.

Examples of issues based risk assessments

  • A new machine is introduced at the site
  • A system of work or an operations is changed
  • After an accident or a ‘near-miss’ has occurred
  • New designs, layouts, equipment, or processes, etc
  • Task risk assessments
  • Findings that come to the fore during continuous HIRA
  • Requests from employees
  • A change in the risk profile
  • New knowledge and information becoming available on the level of risk to employees
  • Process hazard analysis
  • Environmental impact assessments
  • Major hazardous installations risk assessments
  • HAZOP (Hazard And Operability Study)

Continuous risk assessment (Continues HIRA)

Purpose of a continuous risk assessment

The purpose of conducting continuous HIRA is to:

  • identify hazards with the purpose of immediately treating
  • significant risks;
  • gather information to feed back to issue-based HIRA; and
  • gather information to feed back to baseline HIRA.

Output of a continuous risk assessment

A continuous risk assessment should be conducted on a continuous basis in the work environment. It is a powerful and important form of assessment and should take place continually, as an integral part of day to day management. In continuous HIRA, the emphasis is on day to day hazard awareness, through HIRA, and immediate risk treatment.

In developing hazard awareness, memory joggers such as inspection checklists, pre-use checklists, and critical part and paths checklists, can be produced from management controls that are a product of issue-based HIRA. Planned Task Observations could also be conducted on an ongoing basis.

It is performed at an operational level, where the system, process and activities are monitored on a continuous basis by the operational floor management and first line supervisors. It must not be sophisticated and should mainly be conducted by first line supervisors.

Formal training in this regard is essential. The main emphasis is on “hazard awareness through hazard identification”.

Examples of continuous risk assessment

Hazardous activities need to undergo this type of risk assessment prior to the conducting of the activity and can include:

  • Inspections
  • Critical task observations
  • OHS audits
  • Work permits
  • Toolbox talks
  • Medical surveillance
  • Occupational hygiene measurements
  • Planned maintenance systems

For more information contact Tinus Boshoff tinus@labourguide.co.za 


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