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Workplace injury prevention and risk management

The fundamental responsibility of the safety professional is to control risk in order to prevent work-related fatalities, injuries, diseases, and ill-health. Legislation oversees the duty to control workplace risk and expects organizations to do more than just comply.

This article summarizes the need for diversity, the control hierarchy, time-sequence approaches, barriers and defenses, the precautionary principle, and the socio-technical systems approach to risk management. We also provide health and safety specialists with control measures.

What exactly is the principle of risk management?

The first principle of risk management presented in this chapter is the requirement for variety. Risks in organizations can be considered to come from the interplay of people, equipment, and systems, and they can only be addressed by employing a wide enough range of control measures to cover all of the various ways that the system can fail.

Generally, risk is controlled by establishing rules. However, the number of rules we create to control safe behavior will always be less than the number of dangerous scenarios. One solution is to give the ability to modify regulations to local circumstances while still meeting organizational goals. When making risk-control decisions, it is critical to consult with all key stakeholders on a regular basis.

The control hierarchy

The hierarchy of controls is a global concept that helps to control risk and underpins health and safety legislation. The control hierarchy defines the priority order for considering hazard and risk controls.

The most effective control is to always try to remove the danger. If this is not a reasonable option, you must reduce the risk by considering the other possibilities in the hierarchy.

Administrative controls and personal protective equipment (PPE) are the least successful at minimizing risk because they do not manage the danger at its source and instead rely on human behavior and supervision.

  1. Is it possible to physically get rid of the hazard? Using this control, the danger is rendered null and invalid, exposing employees to no chance of injury.

  1. Is it possible to substitute a danger, such as changing the equipment or tools used to conduct a hazardous task?

  1. Isolation: Is it possible to isolate or separate the hazardous or hazardous work practices from those who are not involved in the work or the general work areas?

  1. Engineering controls: Can we remove the hazard using machines and devices? For example, when moving heavy loads, use mechanical devices such as trolleys or hoists; install guards around moving parts of machinery; install residual current devices (electrical safety switches); set work rates on a production line to reduce fatigue; and install sound dampening measures to reduce exposure to unpleasant or hazardous noise.

  1. Administrative Controls: Is it possible to alter the procedure or the manner in which personnel conduct a dangerous task? This sort of control is heavily reliant on workers adhering to the preventative method, and they continue to be at risk of occupational accidents.

  2. Is it possible to supply personal protective equipment (PPE) that will safeguard employees from the hazard? Using personal protective equipment (PPE) to protect your staff is the last line of defense against a workplace injury. PPE is frequently forgotten, ill-fitting, or does not provide an adequate level of protection.

Risk management during the preconditions phase

  • control of specific dangers, such as chemical or biological threats that cause diseases or trigger responses like asthma.

  • integrated system-wide occupational health management strategies into OHS management systems.

  • Individual vulnerabilities and causative factors are the focus of health promotion programs.

Risk management during the occurrence phase

  • A competent operator’s adaptive response as a process variable begins to move outside of safe parameters

  • Active management of the individual by medical and other health specialists when a medical condition arises, like in the case of a lead worker

  • system-wide interventions in occupational health.

The role of barriers and defenses in controlling development

When it comes to risk management, there are three types of barriers to consider, each with a different degree of effectiveness.

  1. Technical barriers (high efficacy): can prevent risk escalation, attenuate the risk, lessen its impact, or limit its possibility. These impediments are typically incorporated into the process/design structure.

  2. Human/organizational barriers (moderate efficacy): contribute to process or activity control and minimize the chance of beginning events by reinforcing or preventing the degradation of barriers. Such barriers might deteriorate over time and must be examined on a regular basis.

  3. Fundamental obstacles (poor efficacy): barriers that are separated in time from the onset of the threat and the realization of the risk. Fundamental barriers help to ensure system safety by detecting system flaws and underlying or latent breakdowns.

Make use of a variety of tools

When determining which control measure to employ, you must consider a number of factors that are appropriate for the situation. Working at heights can, for example, yield positive outcomes if the regulations are followed.

Traditional approaches should be used for organizations with low safety maturity that lack safety systems or processes. Training workers and managers, identifying risk, and establishing basic controls are some examples. This should result in much better safety outcomes.

Increase safety maturity

To know what acceptable control measures you can utilize, you must first determine your organization’s safety maturity, which, in most situations, will not be best practice. Organizations must, at the very least, comply with applicable legislation. To provide value, you should endeavor to design ways to enhance your organization’s maturity levels and become an organizational change agent.


Controlling risk to prevent work-related fatalities, injuries, infections, and illness is difficult, and control measures must be comprehensive. There are numerous techniques for risk management that can be used before, during, and after an incident happens.

You must be aware of barriers and defenses, as well as how they can fail or be breached. You should be up to date on current health and safety knowledge because your primary duty is to advise on acceptable risk-control methods.