Minimising WHS risk so far as is reasonably practicable means that the risk is not eliminated but it is reduced to the lowest possible level that is reasonably practicable. And that low level of risk could be the level of “extremely unlikely” or even less.
That sounds like a very desirable state of WHS risk control. And if you research a number of Court judgements you will usually find that a workplace fatality or injury happened because;
the hierarchy of control was not used, or
it was only partially used, or
it was used but the risk controls were not always applied.
The hierarchy of control must be used
Clauses 35 - 36 of the WHS Regulation 2017 say that if a duty holder cannot eliminate a risk to health & safety so far as is reasonably practicable then they must minimise the risks so far as is reasonably practicable using one or more named control measures. The Code of Practice: How to Manage WHS Risks (pages 18/20) states;
“The ways of controlling risks are ranked from the highest level of protection and reliability to the lowest”
“The lower levels in the hierarchy are less effective because controls that change the hazard or minimise exposure to the hazard can only minimise the risk. You cannot eliminate the risk without eliminating the hazard.
Administrative controls and personal protective equipment (PPE) are the least effective at minimising risk because they do not control the hazard at the source and rely on human behaviour and supervision. These control measures should only be used:
− to supplement higher level control measures (as a back-up)
− as a short-term interim measure until a more effective way of controlling therisk can be used, or
− when there are no other practical control measures available (as a last resort).”
Who must take action?
The PCBU and Officers of the PCBU, Managers, Supervisors, Team Leaders, general workers and others, are all members of the same team that have a role to play in helping to make sure that;
the hierarchy of control is fully used on all hazards in your workplace, and
the controls are always applied.
If this is not happening in your workplace it could be because certain team members need specific training about the hierarchy of control. That training should include doing practical exercises where they work out how the hierarchy of control should be used to minimise the risk of specific hazards in your workplace.
29th October 2019
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