Working in the Sun Nolwazi MSRM
Outdoor workers and skin cancer in South Africa
3rd Oct 2018

Managing Health and Safety – The Ultimate Guide

Managing Health and Safety the ultimate guide

What is IRMSA?

IRMSA stands for the Institute of Risk Management of South Africa and it is the chartered body for  Risk Managers and health and safety professionals in South Africa.Their industry recognized courses, is widely accepted as the platinum standard in Risk Management and Health and Safety courses at managerial level.And it’s with the IRMSA courses that this journey starts!Healh and Safety Management

I, like many of my colleagues, completed courses as the first step on the ladder to becoming a competent safety and health officer to work our way through the ranks.Health and Safety courses gives budding health and safety officers a solid foundation in the principles of health and safety management and seeks to instill in managers, the confidence needed to manage their workforce safely and efficiently.

Lessons I’ve learned from some health and safety courses is the founding principles I’ve carried with me throughout my health and safety career, the very principles I follow to this day.

On more than one occasion, these principles have guided me through difficult times of employment, believe it or not!Whether that’s a serious workplace incident or a ‘heated discussion’ with top and senior management.Look, the safety and health officer / manager often wears a number of hats.Rightly or wrongly they are often the go-to person when things go wrong, and more often than not this spills over into non-safety related matters.They must be the pragmatist and the reasonable voice and diplomat, the negotiator and the Positive Mental Can Do do enthusiast.They must seek to inspire and empower the workforce and top and senior management alike.They must influence at all levels.

And influence – more specifically the ability to influence – is one of the most important qualities a safety and health officer must possess.You can tantrum scream and shout as loud as you want, but unless you do things in the right way – the pragmatic, yet influential way – you’re more than likely ‘walking into a wall’.Now, as with many things in life, there are normally two distinct ways of dealing with situations – the logical sensible manner , and the Law.Influencing on health and safety-related matters is no different.

Whether it’s at executive board-level or shop-floor-level, you need to be able to influence your colleagues to make the right decisions and do the right thing.Some members of the organisation may well prefer the ‘logical sensible manner’ – an incentive may be all that is needed to completely change their mindset.If you’re lucky, the incentive of a safer workplace may even be enough.

However, for some, this approach just does not work.These are the people who need a little more ‘motivation’ to conform – the people who may ‘push back’ a little.For these people, the ‘law’ may be necessary – not literally of course. Hitting a colleague with a stick for not following safe systems of work is not only against the law, it sort of defeats the purpose…But metaphorically speaking, the ‘law’ can be quite a good tool to utilize when all else has failed.Right!So, it’s all well and good throwing around buzzwords such as ‘logical sensible manner and the law’ – but in practical terms, what does that even mean?

The Logical Sensible Manner towards Health and Safety Risk Management

So, in order to manage safely, we must first understand the benefits of managing safely.Once we understand the benefits, we can use these to our advantage in the negotiating room.For example, let’s say that you – as the competent health and safety adviser – felt that your employer’s business was particularly lacking in a certain area, in terms of Risk Management.

You’ve identified the areas in which you believe controls is deficient, and have put a business case together which involves the implementation of an improvement plan.Within that improvement plan is the recommendation that additional training should be provided, in the knowledge that this training cannot be performed internally and as such, is going to cost your employer money.

The report was submitted to your boss in advance of your meeting, which is just about to commence.You ‘know and understand’ what your boss is like, and he’s not going to buy it…You’re about to walk through that door and go to the mattresses (expert from the godfather!You’re about to quote every relevant piece of legislation you know.

You’ve memorized every legal non-conformity from your recent review.You’re carrying printouts of every recent case study in which the general manager was prosecuted as a result of failing to comply with their statutory obligations.

Lets say a Section 54 was issued by the dmr. But why? Why jump straight to the law when there are so many logical sensible ways at your disposal? Why not start by explaining how this would create a safer working environment for everyone involved?And how that would demonstrate a clear commitment – from top and senior management – to the health and safety, including the welfare of employees?

It would also be a clear demonstration of how the company – its providing an managing its leadership – have a clear devotion to employee professional development and investment.You could go on to say how this morale-boosting demonstration would most probably improve your workforce’s overall well-being and potentially their mental health, and that an improvement in the physical, mental, and emotional state of your workforce would almost certainly bring about increased productivity not so?There are numerous benefits to managing safely, from improved worker morale to increased productivity, as well as reduced absenteeism and, of course, fewer accidents.You don’t always have to go on the offensive.Try having that debate and using every ‘sensible manner’ at your disposal – you’ll be surprised what you can achieve.If presented correctly, these benefits can be hugely enticing to senior management, so bear them in mind when requesting the provision of additional resources.If you’re about to have this discussion with your management, more information and resources on the benefits of excellent health and safety management can be found on the Department of Labor website and or the DMR Website .

Should you still struggle feel free to contact us here

The Law

Now that we understand the benefits associated with managing safely, and the importance of being able to effectively communicate those benefits to top senior management, as well as the wider workforce, we must ask ourselves “what do we do when the sensible way doesn’t work?”

So we’ve laid out our business case and discussed all of the potential benefits of having a safe, healthy, and productive workforce, but the managing director is not impressed.In his opinion, there is no quantifiable evidence that this training will deliver a return on investment.He/She has the ‘it seems to have worked ok so far’ look slapped all over their face and isn’t going to budge.

They will not overly be convinced with all of this and you’ve heard via the grapevine that  the big boss only cares about his bottom line – is this going to cost the boss money, or not?

To the boss, that’s what counts. Time to bring out the big guns, right? “Or as said by the godfather – Bring them to the mattresses!”Maybe, but there’s a right way to do things – and you’ve guessed it – Sensible and reasonable manner!

You’ll do yourself no favors by going off on a tantrum and getting all hot around the cuff!By remaining calm,cool and collected, and presenting your point in a reasoned way, you may just win them over.

But the bottom line is, if the potential benefits of doing things right are not enough to persuade them to provide adequate resources, then you have to remind him how much it could cost if things go wrong. (The Iceberg Theory). And let’s be clear, we’re not just talking about financials here right!Should a fatal accident occur, the potential repercussions are huge for all parties involved, particularly if the employer is found to be at fault.

Forget about the money and time involved in investigating the accident scene Forget about the cost of replacement labor (if the business is lucky enough to remain open at all). Let’s forget about the raised insurance premiums, the barrister and court costs, and the civil compensation claims from the victim’s family added onto that?Let’s even forget about the cost of a damaged reputation, poor publicity, and losing your biggest clients.The duty holders, the responsible managers, the most senior managers of the business – people with statutory obligations under health and safety law – all have a role to play in keeping the employees safe.If they fail to do this and are found to be at fault, they could potentially be facing jail time.

And, of course, the fatally injured person has paid the ultimate sacrifice – they’ve lost their life and passed away!Mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, husbands, wives, etc. have all lost a loved one.

No one should be expected to risk life and limb in the quest for business profit.It’s morally unacceptable in today’s  society Yes!People should be able to commute safely, work safely, and return home to their loved ones safely, every single day.And so, if you feel that what you’re requesting is reasonable and warranted in order to reduce significant risk and potentially save a life, then you must be prepared to remind management of their legal obligations, and the consequences for all those involved, should those obligations not be met.

In our example, it was the provision of additional training that was requested, but it could just as easily be that more effective personal protective equipment is required or a safer piece of plant or machinery, or there could be a requirement to implement a new policy or safe system of work.Whatever the reason for the negotiation, always have courage in your convictions and remember your passion for saving lives – it’ll serve you well in the future.

Part 2:Plan, Do, Check, Act: An Effective Health and Safety Management System the “Shewhart cycle”

Many of our clients feel overwhelmed when it comes to managing health and safety – how can they keep on top of so many statutory legal obligations and duties in a world of ever-increasing regulation?

Quite often, this sense of helplessness can put people off even trying to manage the risk.

I meet prospective clients who have little to nothing in place – not even a health and safety policy or risk assessment to say the least. Sometimes people just don’t know where to start – that’s where we come in.

Health and Safety Consultancy

Whenever I conduct a health and safety assurance visit for a new client, the first thing I look for is a robust health and safety management system.

The truth is, a health and safety management system is the foundation on which a positive safety culture is built. It is the ‘bone’ on which we place the health and safety ‘meat’.

How do our clients keep on top of so many statutory duties in a world of ever-increasing regulation in South Africa?

A simple and effective health and safety management system can definitely help. One that is modernized according to the business operational requirements.

It can help give structure to what can sometimes seem like an unstructured, health and safety free for all.

Whilst the implementation of a new health and safety management system – or any management system for that matter – can seem like a Gigantic piece of work in the beginning, it’ll almost certainly pay dividends in the long run.

The Health and Safety benefits are extreme!

Benefits of Plan, Do, Check, Act

Quality, health and safety, security, environmental management – the list goes on.

A huge variety of management systems are a recognized solution around the globe and are implemented with tremendous success – health and safety is no different.

Most health and safety management systems are built around the ‘Plan, Do, Check, Act’ (PDCA) model – and it’s as simple as it sounds.

Ok, maybe it’s not that simple – but it will seem simple after you’ve read this blog.

Now, bear with me… There are many variations of the PDCA model – but as usual, we’re going to keep it simple.

 In practical terms, this easy-to-follow format allows users to navigate through large volumes of policy and documentation and pinpoint exactly what they need when they need it, and – through its policies – it provides clear guidance and instruction on how the rest of the system works.

Some organisations opt to head for the certification route – a way of gaining formal recognition that they’ve met the standards expected of ISO 45001:2018, for example.

For those of you who don’t know, ISO 45001:2018 it is a framework for an occupational health and safety management system and forms part of the ISO Standards

In simple terms, it’s one of the many variants of health and safety management systems – albeit one of the most popular options.

ISO 45001

It is worth noting that a new international standard for occupational safety and health has recently been published as of March 2018.

The long-awaited standard was approved with an overwhelming 93% vote in favor of its publication.

ISO 45001 has been developed by a committee of occupational health and safety experts and follows other generic management system approaches such as ISO 14001 and ISO 9001.

This standardization across the ISO range will allow organisations which utilize numerous international standards to more easily integrate their management system.

Sounds excellent, right?

Should you want more information on the new standard, head over to the International Organisation for Standardisation website.

By now you should hopefully feel comfortable with what a health and safety management system is, and how implementing one could benefit your organisation and make your life a whole lot easier.

But in reality, we’ve skimmed over the topic.

It cannot be underestimated just how important the management system is – in fact, it’s so important, this article is built around it.

And the most important point… It never ends!

Sorry. That wasn’t supposed to depress you.

The point I’m trying to make is that ‘continual improvement’ is the cornerstone of any management system.

It’s a continual cycle and at no point does it end.

Which is great!

Think about it. If we do it right, we can only get better.

Everything we do in health and safety stems from our management system, and so we’re going to cover it in a little more detail.

But for now, a brief content guide:


  • Policy

  • Planning


  • Risk Profiling

  • Organising

  • Implementing your Plan


  • Measuring Performance

  • Investigating Accidents, Incidents and Near Misses


  • Reviewing Performance

  • Learning Lessons

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Part 3:Demonstrate Your Safety: Policy and Planning

Having served over 14 Years in the Health and Safety arena in South Africa – the home of the study and development of systems for improving and assisting companies there is couple of phrases that stuck with me- to this day.Every Cow is purple yes you get purple colored cows!Now, I’m not sure whether this statement was a consideration in the creation of the Plan, Do, Check, Act model – but it’s certainly relevant.In everything we as safety and health practitioners do; in everything we as good managers do, preparation is key.

Planning is key!

All too often mistakes are made and lives are lost in the workplace as a result of poor planning.

People rush in to get the job done and fail to identify the significant hazards. Sooner or later, this could catch you out.

So, it’s no surprise that the first principle in the Plan, Do, Check, Act model is, of course, ‘plan’.

Planning how we intend to manage safety and health within our organisation is absolutely paramount in creating a safe and healthy working environment.

It also helps us meet our legal obligations.

After all, if we don’t plan, if we don’t set targets and create objectives, how can we ever be sure that they’ve been achieved?

How can we ever improve?

Under health and safety law – namely, the Occupational Health and Safety Act 1993 and the Mine Health and Safety Act 29 – employers must prepare a written health and safety policy.

And most health and safety policies generally follow the same basic structure.

Statement of Intent

Health & Safety Policy - Statement of Intent

This sets out the organisation’s vision for, and commitment to, managing health and safety. One of the most important features of this section is that it is signed by the most senior member of the organisation.

This signature demonstrates commitment from ‘the top, down’ – setting out organisational health and safety aims and objectives.

Organisational Responsibilities

Organisational Responsibilities

This section is designed to clearly identify exactly who in the organisation does what when it comes to health and safety.

Every role, every position, every employee within an organisation will have health and safety responsibilities of some sort – this section explains those responsibilities and clearly defines their duties.

Arrangements for Implementation

Arrangements for Implementation

So, ‘arrangements for implementation’ pretty much sums it up. In practical terms, this details exactly how the business will achieve the aims and objectives set out in the statement of intent.

All activities carried out by the business which may be significant in terms of health and safety will need to be listed in this section. For example, there could be; arrangements for investigating accidents and near misses, arrangements for manual handling, or arrangements for managing fire safety.

But health and safety policies are not the only way to plan.

They’re certainly not the only way to demonstrate vision or inspire your people.

People immediately think long, complex, and unnecessary documents that have little bearing on them.

Signing and understanding these documents is usually a ‘tick in the box’ exercise.

The naming convention will differ from organisation to organisation, but other than getting employees past the first page, I question whether the name will actually make someone want to continue to read a policy.

So, what will?

Google. No, not Google`s Speech Interpretation and Recognition Interface.

A little mnemonic I created as a guide to creating effective and engaging safety and health documentation.

Great, “OOk”, Legal and Educational

Let’s paint the picture.

You’ve just joined a new company and as part of your induction programe, you’re required to sign to say you’ve read and understood the company’s health and safety policy.

Your line manager walks in and drops the world’s fastest document in your lap.

It’s never an enjoyable experience. (“The hum drum of it all”)

So much so, that I’d ‘bet my bottom ZAR’ that most employees definitely do not read it, let alone understand it.

But this doesn’t have to be the case.

Keep it Great and Simple.

A health and safety policy doesn’t have to be overly complex. It doesn’t have to be ‘war and peace’.

Think outside the box – don’t just quote the same old legislation. Be innovative in your approach to engaging with the reader.

Make it relevant! If you don’t work with high voltage electricity – you probably shouldn’t have arrangements for it.

“OOk” – Inspire! I know it can be difficult with a subject like health and safety, but there are ways and means. If you inspire your people, they’ll almost definitely go above and beyond.

I recently wrote a strategic health and safety narrative in which I wanted to reflect the changes my business had recently undergone, as well as our vision for the future.

I sought to inspire the wider workforce, whilst empowering our managers.

But don’t take my word for it – have a look yourself.

Strategic Health and Safety Narrative

“It is the hard work, enthusiasm and commitment of all our people that allows us to deliver such a high standard of operational output, and ensuring a safe and healthy working environment for our people is our number one priority.

Not merely to ensure we comply with legislative requirements but to meet our moral obligations in keeping our workforce, and those affected by their acts and omissions, safe.

Although we have changed somewhat over the last two years, both in terms of structure and delivery, health and safety has remained at the heart of all that we do – absolutely paramount in achieving operational targets, both safely and efficiently.

Now, with a clearly defined health and safety structure and a dedicated health and safety team, we have developed a solid foundation in which our successful health and safety management system can continue to build upon.

We are seeing real improvements in recent months, particularly in the number of safety improvement opportunities being reported, the competence and capability of staff through an improved training program and a safety culture buy-in that spans across all levels of our team due to our technological use of modernized Health and Safety Management systems.

A particular emphasis has been placed on developing the knowledge, competence, and confidence at a supervisory and managerial level, through open communication, participation, training and continual support.

This excellent leadership within each of our sub-teams has created a reliable, open, and honest communication structure and will continue to drive improvements at a local level.

The wider organisation has set the course for a more collaborative approach to overseeing safety management that allows individual business areas to forge their own destinies, whilst sharing ideas and solutions.

This is an approach that we embrace – whereby modern health and safety management will support the direction in which health and safety management is headed, but will not seek to micromanage employees in carrying out their duties and responsibilities.

Instead, we will ensure that our people are clearly aware of those duties and are provided with the necessary training, tools, equipment and electronic hardware and support required to carry them out safely and efficiently.

The introduction of a number of new systems will reinforce our commitment to simplifying the health and safety process and will give real ownership to our people. On all working levels.

In order to effectively implement these changes in working practices, a change in our thought processes surrounding safety will need to occur. Through the application of Modernized Health and Safety Management Systems.

We must strive to create a passionate and inclusive working environment in which our people feel confident they can report issues and concerns, and admit to genuine mistakes without fear of retribution.

One where mistakes are seen as a chance to learn a lesson, as opposed to a chance to lay the blame.

In order to create the type of safety culture we aspire to, we must first create one of fairness.

We must create a just culture.

Our vision is one in which each and every member of our staff takes responsibility and accountability for health and safety risks, where a clearly defined support structure is always on hand to offer any assistance that may be required.

A vision that will be reinforced by proactive monitoring, encouragement and effective communication from senior management and beyond.

A vision where our people take real ownership of, and real pride in maintaining the health, safety, and welfare of themselves and others.

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Part 4:Risk Profiling: What Could Cause Harm and How

Great, so we’ve set out our safety vision and we’ve planned how we’re going to implement it – now what?

Well, if we’ve done our job right, we should now know exactly what needs doing, how it needs to be carried out, and by whom.

One of the most significant things we’ll need to do, regardless of organisation, regardless of industry or sector, is a risk profile.

We need to find out exactly what poses a significant risk, we need to assess it, and we need to control it.

Risk Profiling: What Could Cause Harm and How

You’ve all heard the term ‘risk assessment’, right? That procedure that sounds boring and over complicated.

Well, guess what? It’s not!

A risk assessment is only as complicated as you make it, and remember you’re the manager, you’re the safety practitioner, you’re the Safety Officer.

That isn’t to say write the assessment on ‘the back of a company flyer’, but most workplace activities don’t require endless amounts of paperwork, they’re not designed to take up all of your time and capacity.

And if they are unnecessary and over-complicated, do you think this will help in our battle to communicate them effectively to staff?

Remember, this is why health and safety has a bad name in the first place – we need to simplify the process.

Keep It Simple

We’re only looking at significant risks.

If we wrote down every single risk that popped into our head, we’d be here all day.

In fact, on courses such as HIRA, you’re explicitly told to ignore the trivial, and focus on the significant.

It’s all about ‘reasonable foreseeable’… But that’s a blog for another day.

Five Steps to Risk Assessment

Risk Assessment

As previously mentioned, my 13 years of studying and working in Health and Safety provided me to understand mnemonics and whilst I was undertaking my studies I used this learning technique with great success.

In fact, it came as second nature to me.

So, how do we condense the five steps to a risk assessment into a manageable – and most importantly, a retainable – piece of information?


Those of you who follow me will know that everything I do is built around simplifying the health and safety risk management process – that’s the reason our blog is called Managing Health and Safety.

And if this mnemonic can simplify things for you, just as it did for me during my studies, then I’ll be a happy Guy.

But of course, I.D.E.R.R should only act as a ‘trigger’ – a way of recalling useful information and bringing it to the forefront of your mind.

But as an employee with risk assessment responsibility, whether that’s a health and safety professional or a manager with health and safety responsibilities, you should, of course, have all the necessary competence to conduct these tasks. That includes a more in-depth knowledge of the stages.

So on that note, let’s take a closer look.

Step One: Identify the Hazards

Identify the Hazards

Now, before we delve into assessing risk, we must first be able to identify what it is that could cause harm to you or your workforce.

These things are known as hazards.

So in essence, a hazard is anything with the potential to cause harm.

For example, water on a staircase is most definitely a hazard – after all, you could slip on the water, fall down the stairs and injure yourself quite badly.

It’s that simple.

Hazards are often split into six main categories; physical, mechanical, chemical, biological, environmental, and organisational.

You may encounter one or two of the above types of hazard in your place of work, or you may encounter all of them – it really does depend on your place of work, the work activities being carried out, environmental factors, etc.

But, one thing is certain.

Good managers, supervisors, and safety and health practitioners should always be on the lookout for new and evolving workplace hazards, be it during daily VFL – Visible Felt Leadership rounds, scheduled audits or ‘spot’ inspections, highlighting any potential hazards is critical in maintaining a safe and healthy working environment.

Without delving too much into ‘risk’ – which we’ll cover shortly – how much of a risk do you think water on a staircase would pose if no one was around to slip on it?

If the building was abandoned and completely secure, is the water a risk to anyone?

The answer is no.

An important point to note is that in order for an accident to take place, a ‘hazardous event’ must occur.

Essentially, someone must come into contact with the hazard.

So in our ‘water on the staircase’ scenario, someone must walk down the stairs and come into contact with the water.

Clearly, if no one can access the building and no hazardous event can take place, there is no risk of slipping.

However, as soon as that situation changes – the building is reopened for example – there is a very real chance of the hazardous event occurring and the risk is once again relevant.

Step Two: Decide Who May be Harmed and How


When deciding who may be harmed, and how, it’s important to remember that not everyone who may be affected by your acts and omissions will be employees of your organisation.

Yes, employees may well be affected, but so may visiting members of other organisations or members of the public.

What about contractors? Consideration must also be given to those outside of your organisation who may be working on your site.

But the general rule is simple.

Can any of the above be affected by the hazard in question?

Can any of them come into contact with the hazard?

If the answer is yes, they must be considered in the risk assessment process and you must identify how they may be harmed.

Let’s take ‘working at height’ for example if someone is conducting work at a height they could be harmed in a number of ways.

They may fall from their access platform or ladder which could, of course, cause serious injury.

But personnel below could also be injured by objects falling from a height.

For example, a hammer which falls from a height could prove fatal if it makes contact with a person’s head.

But we should be careful not to become fixated on the ‘height’.

Whilst working on an access platform, general tidiness may be poor, increasing the risk of tripping, or the worker may be conducting repetitive manual handling operations, increasing the risk of musculoskeletal disorders.

The people who may be harmed, as well as how they may be harmed, will always be different and should be assessed on a case-by-case basis.

Hence the reason risk assessments should be site and task specific.

A generic set of ‘copied and pasted’ risk assessments will not take into account an untidy site, or poorly trained or inexperienced staff.

This is why at Nolwazi MSRM, we always carry out our risk assessments on site, in real time.

Step Three: Evaluate the Risk and Decide on Precautions

Evaluate the Risk

Now we have a clear understanding of what a hazard and a hazardous event is, we need to understand what we do once we’ve identified them, as well as who may be harmed by them, and how.

In general, if the hazard can be removed or eliminated, the risk is non-existent. If it can be controlled, the risk is reduced.

But, how do we decide if a risk is ‘worth taking’?

How do we know if we’ve done everything we can possibly do to reduce the risk?

Well actually, we don’t have to. And that’s the point.

There’s a real difference between doing everything possible, and doing everything ‘reasonably practicable’ to reduce the risk.

Hold on, hold on. Don’t leave the page just yet!

Phrases like ‘reasonably practicable’ and others like it can quite often be a ‘turn off’ to all except the most enthusiastic of safety and health professionals.

But the truth is, once you look past the jargon, it’s not all that complicated.

So, here goes nothing…

Reasonably practicable – think of it as a balancing act.

The law is actually quite fair to employers – it recognises that organisations need to make money and that there needs to be a way of determining whether the introduction of a control measure is reasonable or not.

Now the law says that we should use ‘reasonable practicability’ when determining that balance.

Essentially, we have to weigh up the benefits that the control measure will bring (in terms of reduction of risk), against the cost to the organisation (in terms of time, effort, and money) of implementing the control measure.

How less ‘risky’ will the task be if we bring in this control measure, and how much is it going to cost?

For example, if we needed to clean the windows on a first-floor office block once a month, would it be reasonably practicable to fit a custom built, permanent access platform to the building which will cost the organisation hundreds of thousands of pounds?

Probably not – the level of risk and infrequency of activity wouldn’t warrant such a drastic control measure at a huge cost to the company.

Would it then be reasonably practicable to purchase telescopic window cleaning poles so employees could clean the window from ground level?

Absolutely – the cost of the poles would be very little, whilst the reduction in risk is huge. In fact, it would have completely eliminated the risk of working at height.

It’s all a balancing act and one that needs to be considered very carefully.

Quite often the health and safety profession gets a bad name – it’s stereotyped as a world full of people who ‘want to stop work’, when in fact the opposite is true.

Health and safety should act as an enabler to help ensure work goes ahead but goes ahead safely.

So, we have our hazard, now let’s evaluate.

The level of risk can be determined by asking ourselves two questions:

How likely is it that a hazardous event occurs and how severe could the consequences be (in terms of loss, injury or damage) should the hazardous event take place?

You see, the simplest way of describing risk is, as a calculation.

Risk = Likelihood X Severity

Evaluate the Risk

If it’s likely to happen and it’s going to be pretty catastrophic when it does, you’d better stop that activity straight away and implement some control measures quickly, or the best you can hope for is a knock on the door from the DOL or DMR and a hefty fine with a notice.

If the event taking place is virtually impossible and the end result would be a chipped fingernail, the risk is pretty low and a simple case of ‘manage and monitor’ may suffice.

When evaluating risk, the overall goal is to reduce both the likelihood and the severity to as low as is reasonably practicable – something which is normally done through the implementation of control measures.

Now control measures come in all shapes and sizes, but should always follow the ‘hierarchy of control’.

P.A.E.S.E. (PAESE, backwards)

  • Eliminate

  • Substitute

  • Engineering

  • Administrative

  • Personal Protective Equipment

Now, although I believe this is a clearer and more comprehensive hierarchy, for today, I will stick with this version to avoid confusion

“Risks should be reduced to the lowest reasonably practicable level by taking preventative measures, in order of priority.”

We all know we have to reduce risk, and we should all now be confident with the term ‘reasonably practicable’, but we need to understand that risk control is a hierarchy for a reason.

We can’t pick and choose control measures dependant on which side of the bed we woke up from.

We can’t make our decision based on which one we like the sound of best.

We must consider these controls in the order they are shown, not just simply ‘jump’ to the easiest control to implement.



Redesign the job or substitute a substance so that the hazard is removed or eliminated. For example, employers must avoid working at height where they can.



Replace the material or process with a less hazardous one. For example, use a small MEWP to access work at height instead of step ladders. Care should be taken to ensure the alternative is safer than the original.

Engineering Controls

Engineering Control

For example, use work equipment or other measures to prevent falls where you cannot avoid working at height.

Install or use additional machinery, such as local exhaust ventilation to control risks from dust or fume. Separate the hazard from operators by methods such as enclosing or guarding dangerous items of machinery/equipment.

Give priority to measures which protect collectively over individual measures.

Administrative Controls

Administrative Control

These are all about identifying and implementing the procedures you need to work safely. For example: reducing the time workers are exposed to hazards e.g. by job rotation; prohibiting the use of mobile phones in hazardous areas; increasing safety signage and performing risk assessments.

Personal Protective Clothes and Equipment


Only after all the previous measures have been tried and found ineffective in controlling risks to a reasonably practicable level, must personal protective equipment (PPE) be used. For example, where you cannot eliminate the risk of a fall, use work equipment or other measures to minimize the distance and consequences of a fall (should one occur). If chosen, PPE should be selected and fitted by the person who uses it. Workers must be trained in the function and limitation of each item of PPE.

Step Four: Record Your Significant Findings

Record Your Findings

“We assessed all significant risk Judge, we just didn’t record them”

Trust me, if you’re in court fighting your case that you did everything reasonably practicable to reduce the risk – the above excuse is not going to ‘fly’.

Not least because under health and safety law, OHS ACT and the MHS Act

So, what should we record in our risk assessment?

Well, first and foremost we need to know what is potentially going to cause harm e.g. the hazard.

We also need to know who may be harmed by the said hazard and how, as well as any controls you have in place to reduce the risk to as low as is reasonably practicable – yes, this phrase creeps up a lot.

A date of completion, review date, assessor’s details and signatures for those involved in the task or activity, should also be recorded in the risk assessment.

The lists I’ve given you above is not exhaustive and in short, all significant findings should be recorded.

Step Five: Review Your Assessment and Update if Necessary


Workplaces are constantly changing, whether it’s the introduction of new equipment, substances or procedures, or significant changes in key personnel or building use – it could lead to the introduction of new hazards.

It, therefore, makes absolute sense to review your risk assessments on a regular basis.

The Health and Safety Executive recommend that you look at your risk assessment and ask yourself:

Have there been any significant changes?

Are there any improvements that still need to be made?

Have new problems been raised by workers?

Have a recent accident or near misses taught you anything that would help reduce the risk further?

People often ask “how often should I review my risk assessment?” and the truth is, there is no definitive answer.

The lapse of time between risk assessment reviews will depend entirely upon the level of risk determined by the initial risk assessment itself.

Generally, the higher the risk, the more often it should be reviewed.

Hopefully, by now you’re feeling confident on the risk assessment process, but it cannot be understated that risk assessments should be conducted by competent persons and although the process is relatively straightforward, things can quite easily be missed.

The team at Nolwazi MSRM HQ are always on hand should you require any further advice or guidance on the risk assessment process.

Part 5:Measuring Performance: If You Never Check, You’ll Never Know

You can’t manage what you can’t measure!

The foundation of any health and safety management system, as taught in ISO Management courses is the ‘Plan, Do, Check, Act’ system.

The PDCA principal is a crucial component to the success of any management system, regardless of whether it’s safety-related or not and promotes continual improvement.

As I previously eluded to, as a manager you’re on the front line of safety.

Measuring Performance: If You Never Check, You'll Never Know

You must be actively engaged in the monitoring of the workplace to identify hazards and promote that lucrative positive safety culture.

Why not schedule an audit for the last Monday of each month?

Or conduct a random ‘spot’ inspection whenever the feeling takes you?

Even something as simple as a daily walk around will help, even if they’re not recorded.

Doing a daily walk around and not recording it, is better than not doing one at all, and it will reinforce that top-down commitment.

No more ‘excessive paperwork’ excuses!

Sometimes there is a requirement to document health and safety findings formally, be it monitoring methods such as those mentioned above, or things like key performance indicators which will produce quantifiable measurable results, against a pre-determined set of targets.

This could be your businesses number of LTIFR re-portable accidents, for example, or the number of senior management safety tours carried out in a given period.

It could be the number of near misses reported by staff or the number of accident investigations completed within the desired time-frame.

Measuring these statistics is vital to the success of your organisation’s health and safety management system, as this will give a good indication that improvements are being made year on year, month on month, or if you’re reporting culture is on a downward spiral, for example.

Poor performance in a given area that could be a wider indication that something is not right within the organisation and could be the birth of a poor safety culture.

Identifying these trends early can be the difference between addressing an issue and improving, or continuing on a path which could ultimately lead to a fatality.

I can’t emphasize enough, just how important proactive monitoring is.

Proactive Monitoring

But remember, it has to be a combination of both analytical number-crunching and physically getting ‘out on the ground’ to observe and communicate with the workforce.

The very fact that supervisors, managers, health and safety practitioners, etc. are all physically walking around the workplace – whether that’s an office environment, construction site, warehouse or factory – demonstrates your organisation’s commitment to managing safely.

This will give health and safety that ‘human touch’ – It’ll make it personal.

The workforce will realize that the ‘do as I say, not as I do’ mentality no longer exists.

The very fact that things are ‘seen’ to be getting done, may well kick-start the process of actually getting them done.

PART 6:Learn Lessons and Go Again: Never Stop Improving

Ok, so you’ve monitored and measured.

You’ve taken the data and you’ve ‘crunched the numbers’

Now what?

…Now you act!

If improvements have been made in a particular area, analyse it! Know exactly what has improved and why.

Take the causation of that improvement and utilize it.

Learn Lessons and Go Again: Never Stop Improving

In practical terms, roll it out across more sites, over more business areas and to more of the workforce.

Take that success and promote it around the business – acknowledge staff for their hard work and dedication.

And of course, continue to monitor and measure.

Monitor, Measure, Improve

But what if no improvements have been made?

What if things have gotten worse?

Well, the first thing you don’t do is panic. You don’t kick yourself while you’re down.

If you’re anything like me, you’ll take huge pride in being good at your job, so this is often easier said than done – particularly when answering to line management as to why they’re not seeing the results they wanted.

But these things happen, pick yourself up and dust yourself down.

Identify why improvements haven’t been made.

This may require some investigative work, but the end goal is simple – Identify why certain approaches failed and re-design.

Ask yourself, why did that fail?

Find the cause, and address it.

You see, there’s always room for improvement.

Even if the numbers are ‘in the green’ and you’re doing well – you could always do a little better.

If implemented correctly, the continual improvement model can almost eliminate complacency.

Remember the ‘Plan, Do, Check, Act’ model?

Follow it!

When you come to the end, start all over again.

When you’re finished with ‘Act’, crack straight back on with ‘plan’.

Never stand still – Always move forward.

Part 7:Forget Managing Safely: Lead Safely

Although the term that’s often used is ‘managing safely’, what we should all aspire to do is, in fact, better described as ‘leading safely’.

Not all managers will be charismatic, passionate and inspirational enough to be leaders.

And similarly, not all leaders are necessarily in managerial positions.

Earlier I alluded to the ‘do as I say, not as I do’mentality – one of the sure-fire ways to ensure employees lose all respect for you.

Forget Managing Safely: Lead Safely

A leader shouldn’t command from the back, they should lead from the front. They should act with integrity and yielding honesty

And that goes for safety leaders too.

Those of us who manage safety and health should have an impeccable track record when it comes to safety.

If a rule is not followed or a near miss not reported, complacency and contempt will set in.

If the very people who are responsible for upholding the standards are not abiding by them, how can you expect the wider workforce to?

As safety leaders, you must practice what you preach.

You must lead by example.

Competence is King

Competence in Health and Safety

Every safety leader – every person who manages health and safety – cannot do so effectively without a competent workforce.

There are no two ways about it.

The best employers in the world are the ones who invest in, train, and ensure the competence of their staff.

So, what is meant by competence?

Well, competence is a combination of skills, knowledge, attitude, training, and experience.

In other words, a person must have the necessary skills, knowledge, attitude, training and experience to conduct a task safely and successfully.

Competence is key!

An employer must – under health and safety law – provide their workforce with the necessary information, instruction, training, and supervision to ensure they’re competent to undertake the tasks they’ve been given, and as a supervisor, manager, or safety and health practitioner it may well fall to you to organise and maintain the competence of your workforce.

It cannot be underestimated just how important health and safety training is.

It comes in many forms and is the cornerstone of competence.

But you see, training isn’t a ‘one size fits all’ type of provision – it comes in all different shapes and sizes; from workshops and toolbox talks, to formally recognized qualifications such as First Aid at Work, it can be on the job training or instruction on a specific subject.

Internal training is commonplace and is perfectly acceptable providing the trainer is competent to deliver it.

Or, there may well be a need for more in-depth, industry recognized health and safety training.

Whatever your training requirements are, one rule is pretty hard and fast – an employer’s legal obligation to provide it.

Providing health and safety training to your workforce will not only allow you to comply with your statutory obligations but can significantly boost performance and productivity and improve that lucrative ‘positive safety culture’.

Now that we understand the definition of competence and the importance of effective health and safety training, it seems only fitting that we delve further in to the specifics of health and safety courses.


Now it goes without saying, there are hundreds, if not thousands of individual health and safety courses out there.

From the generics of manual handling and work at height, to specialist safety courses for accessing electrical substations and switch rooms.

If you’re looking for a specific type of health and safety training course, you can ‘bet your bottom dollar’ that someone, somewhere provides it.

With so much training available, it’s clear we cannot go through every single course, one-by-one.

What we can do however, is briefly discuss some of the most widely undertaken health and safety courses in a bid to give a general overview.

First Aid

People can often feel confused when it comes to first aid in the work place.

We just want to know how many first aid-trained personnel we need, what standard of first aid training is required, and how often it should be refreshed.

We want it in black and white. Totally unambiguous.

You should know by now that unfortunately, legislation doesn’t quite work like that.

It simply can’t.

With so many different industries and sectors; low risk office environments, to high risk petro-chemical ones.

With this type of variation it really is impossible to write prescriptive legislation that is fit for purpose.

And unfortunately, when it comes to the provision of first aid training it’s important to note that there is no ‘one size fits all’ solution.

But this isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

How would you feel if you were the Managing Director of a small Tech company – one office and 25 employees – and had to have 15 first aid-trained personnel all because the legislation was prescriptive a non-flexible?

Seems pretty unfair, right?

So in actual fact, having non-prescriptive legislation may seem confusing at first, but as long as you can interpret that legislation (or employ the services of someone who can) then your’e actually saving your business time and money.

Remember, it’s all about risk.

And if you work in a high risk industry, you may need to have more staff trained in first aid.

Similarly, if you work in a low risk industry, having a couple of people trained in emergency first aid may suffice.

first aid-needs assessment should be carried out in the first instance by a competent person.

This will help determine exactly what level of first aid provision you require in your place of work.

At this point, it’s probably worth noting that there’s really two main first aid course variants common to the majority of workplaces.

Emergency First Aid at Work

Should your first aid-needs assessment identify the need for the provision of first aid training which covers emergency protocols only, the Emergency First Aid at Work Course is suitable and sufficient and should help you meet regulatory requirements.

So, what does that actually mean?

Well, you need to conduct an assessment of the risk in your workplace.

But ordinarily, if your place of work is a smaller, low risk environment, the Emergency First Aid at Work Course is perfectly suited for nominated First Aiders.

The course is ran over one day and includes a stint of training on the Automatic External Defibrillator (AED).

Engage, engage, engage!

Effective Communication and Engagement

CHAPTER 8:Next Step: The Future of Health and Safety

There is no doubt that we as a profession face some real challenges in the coming years, not just in terms of occupational accidents and ill health, but also in terms of how health and safety (as a profession) moves forward.

With the rise of artificial intelligence and ever-increasing automation, and an ageing workforce and professional demographic, there’s no doubt in my mind that if we don’t move forward; if we don’t evolve, if we don’t embrace this new digital era, there is a very real danger that the profession could take a huge hit and be negatively impacted.

At Nolwazi MSRM we have the most comprehensive modernized solutions for the new health and safety era engage with us today and we will show you!

Next Step: The Future of Health and Safety


Now It’s Your Turn

Remember, a positive safety culture is no accident.

Health and safety is just good management.

Our mission is to inspire a positive safety culture through the provision of advice, guidance and training.

What’s your #1 takeaway from this guide on Managing Safely?

Are you going to focus on implementing the plan, do, check, act system? Increase staff engagement? Or improve employee competence?

Or do you fundamentally disagree with the principles listed in this guide?

Let me know by leaving a comment below.

 This Article is dedicated to the Late “Ruan Bronkhorst ” Dedicated Health and Safety Practitioner

Who Sought Health and Safety Knowledge and the Protection and Betterment of All