The following laws and regulations are in place in the interest of employees across industries in South Africa:

  • The Occupational Health and Safety Act (OSHA)
  • The Mine Health and Safety Act (MHSA)
  • The Compensation for Occupational Injuries and Diseases Act (COIDA)
  • The Occupational Diseases in Mines and Works Act (ODMWA)
  • The Basic Conditions of Employment Act (BCEA)
  • The Labour Relations Act (LRA)

According to the South African Occupational Health and Safety Act, 85 of 1993 (OHSA) every employer must provide and maintain a working environment that is safe and without risks to the health and safety of employees.

An occupational health and safety risk assessment is simply a careful look at what could hurt employees while they perform their duties at work. It also helps employers figure out what precautions, training, and skills should be put in place to avoid workplace accidents, injuries, and death.

Risk assessments must be carried out annually but can be done earlier if:

  • There is an incident, in which case it must be carried out again to determine the causes of the incident.
  • There are significant changes to the work environment, especially when new and different risks can be introduced and must be added to the risk assessment.

Contact Ally at Cofesa for assistance in your Risk Assessments –

Identifying risks in the workplace

Employers across South Africa are legally required to perform the necessary procedures that will identify hazards and manage risks that are associated with these risks, such as a workplace risk assessment.

A hazard can simply be defined as a task, tool, application, or condition that could cause harm. A risk is a chance that either of these components will cause harm to employees. Risk Assessments are the best way in which risks can be identified and managed effectively and there are three main types of risk assessments, namely:

  • A Baseline Risk Assessment (Baseline RA)
  • An Issue-Based Risk Assessment (IBRA)
  • Continuous Risk Assessment (HIRA)


A baseline risk assessment provides an overall risk profile for a specific workplace that consists of different work areas and departments. The Baseline risk assessment can be used to prioritise different action programmes for the Issue-Based Risk Assessment.

The baseline risk assessment is carried out to provide employers with a benchmark of the types and the size of potential hazards in the workplace. It is important to point out that the baseline is an initial occupational health and safety risk assessment that looks at a wide range of risks to figure out the risk profile that will be used in future risk assessments.

A baseline risk assessment looks for risk that affects the whole company or project. Examples of baseline risk assessments include the following:

  • Hygiene and Health Surveys (Noise, Lighting, Ventilation, Temperature Extremes)
  • Environmental Impact and Aspect Registers
  • Fire Risk Assessments


An Issue-Based Risk Assessment is meant to carry out a thorough study that will lead to action plans for dealing with a lot of risks. This type of assessment usually looks at things like operational activities, processes, and business functions that are based on systems and systems.

Usually, it can be used to manage changes in a task or an overall process. It focuses on figuring out the risks that exist in a specific task, process, or activity. Some examples of when IBRA must be carried out include:

  • When new machines or equipment are introduced in a workplace
  • A system of work or operations is changed
  • After an accident or a near-miss has occurred
  • When a risk profile has changed
  • When a hazard analysis has been processed
  • When an environmental impact assessment has been carried out


In the workplace, a continuous risk assessment should be done regularly. It is a strong and vital evaluation method that should be used regularly as part of everyday operations. The purpose of a continuous health and safety risk assessment is as follows:

  • To identify hazards for immediate action
  • Identifying significant risks
  • To collect information to modify the IBRA
  • To collect information to be added to the Baseline Risk Assessment

First-line supervisors must monitor the system, process, and activities to continue to ensure that the system, process, and activities are safe. First-line supervisors should perform it since it should not be too overwhelming or complex for them to handle.

Examples of continuous risk assessments are:

  • Inspections
  • Critical task observations
  • OHS audits
  • Work permits
  • Toolbox talks
  • Medical surveillance


There is a simple process that will help employers manage workplace health and safety risks effectively. This involves five steps to carry out an effective occupational health and safety risk assessment in the workplace and this consists of:

  • Hazard Identification – identifying what could cause harm
  • Identify those who may be harmed
  • Risk evaluation and precautions
  • Record finding and implement actions
  • Review the health and safety risk assessment and make necessary changes

Identify the hazards

Any workplace, despite the industry or nature of business of the organisation, will have inherent hazards and risks. Workplace hazards can take many forms including physical, chemical, mental, biological, and several others.

Hazard identification can be done in a wide range of ways but there is one common practice that remains effective, a walkthrough inspection with a checklist. This allows for the identification of hazards in the workplace where the processes and activities are being carried out.

To make sure that all hazards can be found, the following can be done:

  • Consider all aspects of the work that is being carried out.
  • Remember to include infrequent activities such as repairs, cleaning, and others.
  • Consider previous incidents, accidents, and near-miss incidents
  • Include people from other workgroups such as night-shift workers, drivers, remote workers, etc.
  • Evaluate the process involved with the task, the experience and training of those carrying it out, the systems and steps being used, and so on.
  • Consider all possible foreseeable and unusual conditions such as some control measures being unavailable in emergencies such as power outages.
  • Consider the possibility of products, machines, and equipment being altered, regardless of whether it is by accident or deliberately.
  • Always consider all the phases of the lifecycle

Identify those who could be harmed

Once the hazards have been identified, those who may be vulnerable to them must be identified namely employees, contractors and their staff, visitors to the premises, clients, and members of the public who either interact with the workplace or who work in the vicinity.

People who have disabilities and who fall within different age groups must be considered, along with those who have chronic illnesses, remote workers, pregnant employees, night shift employees, and so on.

For every hazard that is identified the employer must understand who may be harmed and this will help to employ effective management controls. Consult employees to ensure that all groups have been included in the risk assessment.

Evaluate the risks and precautions

Once hazards have been identified and there is a better understanding of who may be affected by them, the employer can proceed to decide what can be done about them. Employers are required to do everything reasonably practicable to prevent harm, which can be interpreted in many ways for different employers in various industries.

However, the easiest way to determine what is reasonably practicable is to compare what is being done against best practices. The current controls must be considered and how effective they are to eliminate or manage the hazards that have been identified.

If a risk cannot be eliminated the measures to mitigate it and to minimize exposure or harm must be evaluated. With risk control several principles must be applied in the following order, if possible:

  • A less risky option must be considered, replacing the risk with a safer option
  • Preventing access to the hazard
  • Reorganising work in such a way that exposure is limited
  • Issue personal protective equipment (PPE)

Record all findings and implement preventative measures

All significant findings stemming from the health and safety risk assessment must be recorded in a working document. The findings must include a description of the hazard, the groups who may be harmed, and the control measures to either eliminate or manage the risk.

The risk assessment and subsequent controls must be shared with all levels of the organisation. While risk assessments are not a fool-proof way to prevent hazards, risks, and incidents, it is a crucial document that can reduce the chances of harm because it creates awareness.

When inspectors visit the workplace, they can ask the employer to prove that a proper check was done, that they have identified those who could be harmed, that the obvious hazards have been dealt with, that the precautions are reasonable and any remaining risks are low, and that all employees are aware of the process, and they have been involved.


There is a lot of time that passes between risk assessments, which makes way for things to change and occur. For this reason, most workplaces implement a continuous daily risk assessment or checklist that can be done to ensure that the workplace remains safe daily.

If conditions change, the workplace risk assessment can be updated to ensure that employees are safeguarded.

Preventing Risks in the workplace based on the Risk Assessment

As part of an effective health and safety management program, employers must ensure that the risks in the workplace can be managed and mitigated.

The overall aim of a workplace risk assessment is to identify hazards in the workplace, then eliminate or reduce the risk of that hazard by implementing control measures. Risk assessments are important because they play an important part in the occupational health and safety management plan.

Risk assessments can:

  • Ensure that employees are aware of hazards and risks
  • Identify who may be at risk of harm, whether it is employees, visitors, the public, contractors, and so on.
  • Determine whether a particular hazard needs a dedicated control program
  • Indicate whether the current controls are effective and if there is more that can be done to safeguard people from harm
  • Prevent injuries and illnesses from occurring
  • Prioritize hazards and their subsequent control measures
  • Ensure that employers are compliant with all rules, regulations, and requirements

To ensure that a workplace risk assessment is effective, the following factors must be considered:

  • The processes and procedures utilized in the substance’s preparation, usage, handling, or storage, etc.
  • The engineering controls, work habits, hygiene practices and facilities are essential to limit such exposure.
  • Actual and prospective worker exposure (e.g., how many employees may be exposed, what kind of exposure they will get, and how often there will be exposure to the hazard).
  • How long and how often is the task carried out.
  • The area where the task is being carried out and whether there are other activities in the proximity of the task.
  • The overall lifecycle of the product, process, or service.
  • The training and education that employees have received on the task and relating risks involved
  • The emergency preparedness procedures and employees’ familiarity with such

Risk assessment and the impact on compliance

Apart from safeguarding employees, visitors, the public, and other parties from activities that are carried out by an organisation, risk assessments are a legal requirement as part of the employer’s obligation to ensure a safe, healthy working environment.

When the employer is found non-compliant, they can face serious legal action and fines. By ensuring that frequent and effective risks assessments are carried out, employers can easily prevent injuries, illnesses, death, penalties, fines, and even imprisonment.

Contact Ally at Cofesa for assistance in your Risk Assessments –

Source: Makrosafe | By Basil Todd