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Difference between Risk Management and OHS Risks

15 December 2020
This blog looks at identifying risk and opportunities within an organization and how they can impact and influence decisions company wide.  

An assumption made by many people managing/maintaining a health and safety management system is that OHS systems are risk based, as they require hazard and opportunity identification and assessment within their primary requirements.

However, risks and opportunities can also arise from consideration of the context of the organization including changes in strategy, service provision, technology and operational changes to name but a few.

It is crucial therefore to connect context and commercial, with OHS risks and opportunities. Let’s consider a scenario where a company receives a large order for an existing service or product:

Commercial Considerations

Do we accept the order? YES / NO:

  • Can we deliver it as required?

  • Do we have the process capacity in terms of plant and equipment?

  • Do we have the materials to supply?

  • Are there existing suppliers in the supply chain capable of supply to enable us to deliver the additional volumes?

  • Does suppling this request impact on existing order commitments?

  • What additional resources and staffing will be required; eg. overtime working, agency staff support?

  • What if this scale of order is repeated?

  • Do we want to scale up our operations?

OHS Considerations

If we proceed with the order:

  • Will existing staff be able to work the additional hours – if not, can we provide the skills required from agency support?

  • Is the welfare infrastructure suitable for the increased volumes of workers – toilets and locker rooms/rest rooms etc.?

  • Can we conduct and revise risk assessments and safe systems of work within the timescales?

  • How will we provide the training and hazard awareness for workers undertaking new activities?

  • Do we have suitable supervisory and management support for the increased operations?

  • Are emergency considerations; First Aid and fire arrangements suitable for the revised working routines?

  • How will we communicate these revised requirements, and what information is likely to be needed by the workers?

  • Are we able to ramp up using a phased introduction or will we need to increase from a fixed point?

  • Can we cover for absence and illness especially in key roles?

  • Can we sustain this scale and volume of throughput in the longer term?

As you can see, there are lots of things for consideration in terms of risk and opportunities when looking at the management of change. It is also important to remember the change may be driven from a need or desire to reduce risks identified from OHS risk assessments or performance. This may need the introduction of revised working practices or new technologies / plant and equipment.

All changes need to be assessed and planned before implementation to ensure they deliver the intended benefit.

To Conclude

In summary, risk and opportunities can be identified in numerous areas of an organization and they can impact and influence decisions across the whole organization. OHS systems are designed to be integrated in the organizations operations to protect workers. Risk and opportunities are therefore to be considered flexibly within an organization and not in isolation.

This blog is authored by: Terry Fisher, NQA UK H&S Principal Assessor

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