The Guide: Implementing Occupational Health and Safety in Residential Aged Care

Hazard Identification

Page last updated: 18 December 2001

Tools and Strategies

The first step in managing workplace hazards is to identify them. It is important to involve everyone in this task.

Tools that can assist you to identify and address hazards are a Hazard Log (see Tool 2 on page 70), an Incident/Injury Report (see Tool 4 on pages 72-74), a Hazard Report (see Tool 5 on page 75), and a structured workplace inspection using a Workplace Inspection Checklist (see Tool 6 on pages 76-79).

What is the difference between a Hazard Report and a Hazard Log?

Hazard Reports are used to report individual hazards whenever they are noticed by staff. A Hazard Log is used to summarise all the hazards currently identified, particularly after a workplace inspection.

Strategies for identifying hazards may be specifically planned for the purpose or continuous, that is, integrated into day-to-day activities. Examples of each are listed below.

Planned strategies include:
  • monthly, six-monthly and annual review of data (hazard, incident, injury, rehabilitation and maintenance records)
  • hazard inspections, including regular workplace inspections - see Tool 6 on pages 76-79 for a sample Workplace Inspection Checklist which you can adapt for your facility
  • considering potential hazards prior to purchasing new equipment or chemicals
  • using industry information from employer organisations and unions to highlight issues that have not been considered.
If you have only a minimal OHS system in place, it would be wise to start with a review of your data and a hazard audit. This information would then form the basis for your risk assessment process, which must be done in consultation with staff (see the next section).

Continuous strategies include:
  • hazard reports completed by staff - see Tool 5 on page 75 for a sample Hazard Report which you can adapt for your facility
  • incident reports and investigation - see Tool 4 on pages 72-74 for a sample Incident/Injury Report which you can adapt for your facility
  • informal observations
  • OHS discussion at staff meetings and Health and Safety Committee meetings - see page 33 for a sample Team Meeting Agenda
  • 'breakdown' maintenance records - see the Equipment Maintenance Record on page 18 of Module 11: Plant and Equipment for a sample maintenance log.
These are parts of your OHS system which must be put into place if you do not already have them. Some of them are directly required by law and by the Accreditation Standards, for example, a reporting mechanism for incidents and injuries. Others are indirectly required, for example, Accreditation Standard 4.5 refers to 'the management of hazards identified in the workplace', implying that systems should exist for hazard identification.

You cannot rely on only one type of hazard identification process. For example, a monthly inspection is good, but not enough. All of the above mechanisms need to work together on a day-to-day/year-to-year basis.
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Hazard Inspections

Regular workplace inspections using a checklist provide you with a chance to identify hazards not noticed on a day-to-day basis.

The objective is to identify hazards, monitor OHS standards and ensure that corrective action is taken within an agreed timeframe.

Inspections should be conducted by a manager and an employee who understands the area being inspected. It is also a good idea to rotate the people conducting the inspections and bring in people from different areas as they may see different hazards. This also helps to encourage participation by all staff in the facility.

A flowchart of the hazard inspection process is shown below(on the next page).

You should decide how often to conduct inspections in consultation with employees, considering how quickly hazards could arise. Some areas may need to be inspected monthly, some every week.

Inspections should include a wide range of issues such as housekeeping, emergency equipment, lighting, equipment, storage and hazardous substances, and should involve staff working in the area.

A sample Workplace Inspection Checklist is included (see Tool 6 on pages 76-79). You will need to adapt this to suit your facility. A small facility may only need to have one checklist, or it may be more practical to have more than one and complete them at staggered regular intervals, for example, kitchen/dining areas, laundry, offices, resident rooms, garden and maintenance areas. Each of the modules dealing with specific hazards has a detailed checklist. You can draw on these to expand the sample checklist, or use them in addition to it.

Workplace Hazard Inspections

Flowchart of Workplace Hazard Inspections
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Consider Note 2 :
  • substances used, for example, cleaning and laundry products, photocopier toner, etc
  • equipment used - suitability of hoists, maintenance tools, ovens, washing machines, dryers, irons, lawnmowers, etc and any hazards associated with the way that they are used or maintained
  • moveable items - vehicles, store boxes, linen and food trolleys, shower chairs, wheelchairs (manual and electric), mechanical hoists, etc
  • people - do they have the skills, information, training and equipment necessary to perform tasks safely? Do they comply with the procedures? Are there potential hazards for staff who are new and/or inexperienced? How could they be affected?
Record all of the hazards identified in a Hazard Log. A sample Hazard Log has been included (see Tool 2 on page 70). At this stage, the Hazard Log is simply a summary list of hazards identified. Later, you will add more information to the log as you move through the processes of risk assessment and risk control.

Following workplace inspections you must take action to address identified hazards or issues, starting with a risk assessment. If you have not assessed the risk and found it very minor, you are not meeting your obligations under OHS legislation if you do not take action. If you do not take action and someone is hurt, you must be able to prove that you have assessed the risk and that there was no need to take action.

Document the actions on the Workplace Inspection Checklist (see Tool 6 on pages 76-79), along with who is to take action and the timeframe.

As you go around the facility, you may find hazards, for example, blocked fire exits, which you act on immediately. Even though the hazard has been immediately controlled, for example, whatever is blocking the exit has been removed, you should still document what has been done so that any patterns or trends can be identified over time.

Once actions have been completed, record the completion date on the Workplace Inspection Checklist (see Tool 6 on pages 76-79). You may wish to record major hazards on the Hazard Log to keep all information in one place.

Long term actions should be included in the OHS Action Plan Worksheet (see Tool 3 on page 71).

On completion of the workplace hazard inspection:
  • allocate and record actions
  • record identified hazards on the Hazard Log (including a review date)
  • forward the Workplace Inspection Checklist to the facility manager/OHS Coordinator
  • sign the sheet once tasks have been completed
  • record long term actions on the OHS Action Plan and amend the OHS Plan if necessary
  • monitor the Workplace Inspection Checklist to ensure that all actions have been implemented.

Hazard Reports

Effective hazard reporting is essential for successful hazard management and to meet Expected Outcome 4.5. Implementing the use of Hazard Reports (see Tool 5 on page 75) will encourage your staff to identify and report hazards. You can then implement controls before an injury occurs. Encourage staff to complete Hazard Reports for any situation which requires actions beyond simple maintenance. For example, a maintenance request may be completed for a wheel sticking on one shower chair. Repeated occasions of wheels sticking on a number of shower chairs has identified a hazard and a Hazard Report should be completed.

Hazard Reports should be:
  • completed by anyone - employees, managers, contractors, volunteers or residents/families
  • signed by the person who completes them
  • investigated, and improvements planned and implemented by the director/supervisor (in consultation with staff)
  • signed by a Health and Safety Committee member or employee representative (if there is one)
  • discussed at a Health and Safety Committee or staff meeting.
After discussion at a meeting, you should include comments on the effectiveness of action taken on the Hazard Report and Hazard Log. Provide feedback to the staff member who reported the hazard.

2. Victorian Occupational Health and Safety Authority, An Accident at Work Hurts Everyone Around You - Making OHS Matter, October 1994, pp 7-8
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