ONE MAY ASK, how exactly can I use a risk positively? After some thought and discussion around the office, I was able to convince my colleagues that knowledge of the presence of risks can be used as an advantage in the workplace.
A risk is defined as the likelihood that a hazard will cause a specific harm or injury to person or damage property. Understanding the likelihood of a hazard can determine the perspective taken by the company and as such determines the culture of the organisation. To maintain a positive safely culture, risks must be dealt with in a positive manner.
Once the presence of hazards is communicated to employees, there is greater understanding of their surroundings and therefore can take the requisite steps to ensure their own safety whilst at work. However, this must not be used as an excuse by the employer to reduce his/her responsibility to reasonably reduce risks in the workplace. The employer still owes a duty of care to the employee which starts with hazard communication.
The hazard communication must be followed with standard operating procedures as with safety and health one cannot assume that everyone knows how to act or react to the presence of hazards and their corresponding risks. Once employees understand that risks are likely they can assist management with the compilation of operating procedures as well as suggesting ways to minimise them.
While management and employees fully understand that risks are present, their basic knowledge may not be enough to create a comprehensive risk reduction plan. However, if the company has a designated and competent health and safety officer, this individual should be prompted by the risk report that a job safety analysis or risk evaluation is imminent. It would be advantageous for a company to solicit the assistance of an independent contractor, in the absence of a permanent internal role.
Sometimes it is easy for bad practices and poor working conditions to become the norm as employees have found ways to work around them, however, with a fresh pair of eyes such bad practices can be pointed out and paths to correction identified.
The late renowned safety expert Dr Trevor Kletz said that to say all accidents happen as a result of human error is like saying that falls happen due to gravity, therefore, risk identification is a company’s pathway to identifying accident causation and ultimately managing risk positively and proactively.
The goal of any company is to ensure it viability and profitability and one very important way of ensuring this is through the proactive management of risks. Mike Shaver, the president of Mountain V Oil & Gas, Inc. in his discourse on safety in his sector noted that “there is no job that is so important that we cannot take the time to perform it safely”.
Risks will always be viewed as a negative part of the workplace. However, knowing that it exists can significantly alter a person’s perception of their workplace environment and propel them to ensure they work safely. There are a few persons who are motivated to risk their lives in the execution of tasks, such employees must be identified and disciplined accordingly.
Safety is not an intellectual exercise to keep safety officers employed but is a matter of life and death. It is the sum of our contributions to safety management that determines the health, safety and wellbeing of our employees and coworkers. Let us manage positively and ensure risk identification is used to our advantage.
Melony James is a Labour Management Adviser/safety coordinator.