Using a Risk Matrix
Health and Safety is all about understanding and controlling hazards and risks. Without understanding what hazards and risks are within a business, you are leaving workers open to injury, illness and possibly death.
We often hear “but it’s common sense to know that will injure you.” However common sense is relative on the persons upbringing, culture and life experience. Every person’s view of common sense is different; we cannot rely on ‘common sense’ as a health and safety control in the business world.
A Risk Matrix is a helpful tool to assist with understanding the level of risk a hazard can bring to a company and allocating risk rating score to the hazard. Once a risk score has been allocated to the hazard the workers need to consider if the risk level is low enough to work with or if controls need to be implemented to reduce the risk level further. This is when the ‘Heirarchy of controls’ come in to assist with identifying the best type of control to lower the risk of the hazard and to a score that will be safer to work with.
Hazard and Risk
What is the difference between a hazard and a risk?
A hazard is the task, thing or condition that could cause harm.
For example: A tiger in the same room as a person is a hazard.
A risk is the likelihood x consequence of the task, thing or condition causing harm.
Likelihood x consequence = risk
For example: The risk is the tiger could attack the person.
We get the equation for our example by using our risk matrix table (below) and following the x and y axis to find our result.
Consequence of injury = Major (4),
Likelihood of injury occurring = Almost Certain (5),
Risk level= Very High (4x5=20)
Having a tiger in a room with a person would effect their safety. If the tiger attacked the person the consequence could be death or a serious injury that could cause a disability (major 4). The likelihood of an attack occurring is (almost certain 5). By following the x and y axis on the table, we come to a ‘Very High’ rating that has a score of ‘20’.
As this risk rating is very high we would need to implement controls to make it a safer environment. This is when we think about what controls we can put into place and consider our ‘Hierarchy of Controls’.
Hierarchy of Controls
When considering controls we need to first think if the hazard can be eliminated. If it cannot be eliminated that is when we then engage the Hierarchy of Controls and work through the minimising of risk options:
Eliminate - Remove the hazard (remove the tiger from the area)
Substitute - Can the hazard be wholly or partly substituted with something that gives a lesser risk. (replace tiger with a house cat)
Isolate - Can we prevent the person coming into contact with the risk (cage or barrier to keep tiger and person separated in 2 areas)
Engineer - Engineering controls to remove the risk. (person uses a mobile cage when entering area with tiger)
If none of these options are acceptable or the risk could be removed further we then look at administration controls. Administration controls could include procedures, training, additional workers or changes in how the task is performed. (person only enters area if they have training to work with large exotic animals that are dangerous and they must work in pairs.)
After all of these options are looked at this is when Personal Protective Gear (PPE) is looked at as an option to remove any remaining risk as a “last line of defense”
PPE could include hard hats, safety glasses, gloves, respiratory equipment, footwear, clothing, harnesses and more. (person to wear protective gloves, footwear, and helmet)
Once controls have been decided upon, we then use the risk matrix again and the score that we get this time is called the ‘residual risk’ ideally this score will be a low rated medium (6-4) score with all controls possible implemented, or a low or very low score. The consequence factor will always stay the same, but the likelihood will be lowered.
(e.g. injury from tiger attack will remain major (4), the likelihood with all the controls will be lowered to rare (1). Our residual risk is 1x4= 4 Medium 4.)
Place the hazard, controls and risk ratings onto your ‘Hazard Risk Register’ if the hazard is to be an ongoing hazard in the business, or use a ‘Job Safety Analysis’ or ‘Daily Risk Assessment’ if the hazard is a one-off or rare hazard that is unlikely to re-occur again.
Recording this process is important to ensure you have evidence of the hazard and risk analysis taking place, helpful to refer back to if the hazard crops up again or if main contractors or authorities ask for proof of health and safety practices occurring.
Our team are available if you require assistance with identifying hazards and risks in your business. Please contact us if you require any advice.