Risk management in practice

by 03 Apr 2007

Risk identification, management and assessment processes are essential to a safe workplace. Carole Goldsmith speaks with a number of OHS professionals about their strategies for handling and assessing safety risks and hazards

Manufacturer of liquid road tankers, dock products, lifting and access equipment, Tieman Industries has plants across Australiaand New Zealand, with 320 employees in Australia.

“As a manufacturing company with extensive manual handling involved in production tasks, manual handling risks are very high profile and numerous,” according to Ray Curtis, national risk manager for Tieman Industries.

The use of highly dangerous plant equipment presents many safety issues related to machine guarding and general operator safety, he explains. Entry into tankers, both during manufacture and repair, involves significant confined space risks, and the welding that occurs presents hazardous fumes in confined spaces at various stages of production. The use of highly dangerous plant equipment, much of which is hand-held and operated, presents additional risks, Curtis adds.

Risk identification, management and assessment

A comprehensive hazard identification process at Tieman Industries identifies risks associated with each task. These are assessed in a likelihood/consequence/duration of exposure matrix then control measures are put in place. These are reviewed and amended as required. Accountability for correct management of this process starts with the national health and safety manager, and is managed through state managers all the way down to team leader level.

“Employees and health and safety representatives are also engaged in the process of the hazard identification process. Through consultation, they provide real solutions to identified risks. Also, they accept ownership of the process and are committed to the outcomes of risk control measures to be implemented,” Curtis says.

Employees are encouraged to make safety suggestions to the national health and safety manager via email. The manager visits each site monthly (both interstate and local) to conduct site safety meetings, where safety initiatives and control measures can also be raised by employees as well as health and safety representatives.

In each state, a day-long risk management program is conducted for all managers, team leaders and health and safety representatives. This outlines the legal compliance for that state and provides the formal risk assessment process of work-related tasks and of products sold.

Risk management at BASF

World leading chemical company, BASF, has its Australian manufacturing facility based in Altona, Melbourne. It produces a range of aqueous polymer dispersions and emulsions. BASF employs more than 300 people across Australia and New Zealand, and employs more than 80,000 people globally.

“Our hazard management program is based on legislative requirements that exist in all states in Australia and New Zealand,” says Christina Sobieralski, health, safety, security and environment manager for BASF (A&NZ). “Managing hazards is the heart of health and safety; it is important that everyone is able to identify hazards.”

Employees are trained to identify hazards specific across workplaces. Risk assessments are done by Sobieralski, as well as shopfloor operators, health and safety representatives, site supervisors, and health and safety team members. External expertise is enlisted if required.

At production sites, formal risk training is provided. Staff at the Altona site understand how to do a risk assessment and are likely to have been involved in, or conducted, one, according to Sobieralski. Managers also act as role models and provide a systematic risk assessment of work processes and individual tasks, enhancing safety awareness among employees.

“Our target is to be lost time injury free and we have not had this for over three years,” Sobieralski says. “The mindset of staying injury free comes from our Altona site. Everyone looks out for each other and doing what they can to avoid situations where they could be exposed to dangers. This is emphasised by the managing director who conducts periodic safety walks onsite, and also gets involved in our safety committee meetings.”

Educating customers

Sobieralski regularly speaks at safety and responsible care conferences, including the Plastic and Chemical Industries Association annual conference on the topic of product stewardship.

“Product stewardship does a risk assessment of your hazardous chemical products and reviews your customer’s risk. It determines which customers need to have a risk assessment on site to determine if they can handle your products safely, or if you supply to these customers at all,” Sobieralski says.

“Through the product stewardship program, each sales manager is a ‘product steward’ for the chemicals he/she sells. We can help to add value to the customer by partnering with them on HSE initiatives. We also invite them to our health and safety training courses, finding solutions to safety or environmental issues they may have.”

The product stewardship program is BASF Australia’s way of ensuring that the health and safety aspects of using the company’s products and raw materials are understood by suppliers, employees and customers, and that the associated risks are well controlled, Sobieralski says.

Making risk management practical

Ray Curtis, national risk manager, Tieman Industries, says there are a number of steps in making risk management practical:

• Use documented procedures, with usable forms for data to analyse and manage risks

• Have open and effective communication to get risk control measures that work

• Commitment to the whole process of risk management must be top driven

Christina Sobieralski, health, safety, security and environment manager for BASF (A&NZ), recommends the following hazard management and assessment points:

• Identification, assessment and control of hazards are the heart of safety

• Safety is about the control of hazards. When an accident occurs we have lost control of the hazard

• Hazard management programs need support of senior management for them to work effectively. The value of strong safety leadership should not be underestimated in the success or failure of effective hazard management