Risks have to be eliminated, or transferred, or managed, but never ignored. This article unpacks risk tolerance.
To tolerate a risk doesn’t mean that one like to have the risk around, nor does it mean that one never means to reduce the risk or that it impossible to deal with, writes Celeste Erasmus.
It simply means that from the moment, it may be impractical, unaffordable or that technology or circumstances are such that I am willing to live with the risk for the moment, and maybe even over longer periods.
‘It won’t happen to me’
The problem arises when risks with a higher likelihood of occurrence is tolerated, or when risks with a low likelihood but potentially hi severity is tolerated because “it won’t happen to me”? This is the scary part of risk management and I see it so many times when I visit workplaces. At first a specific risk is tolerated because of the possible reasons mentioned above, and over time it is almost as if the risk is accepted as part of the cost of doing business.
The risk is never managed appropriately because it was tolerated for so long that people start to think that it will never happen in any case.
Maybe it is happening to you
It is sometimes important to just do a reality check. You might do risk assessments and have all your documents in place. You forget about the elephant/s in the room because you see them every day and nothing happens. Over time, it becomes difficult to see them for what they really are. So take a moment and look at them again, ask yourself:
- Is your site safe?
- Do you have the authority to manage the risks on site?
- Have you consider the hierarchy of controls?
- Do you know how to Terminate, Transfer, Treat and Tolerate?
Safety risk reduction steps
The rising trend of injuries and even deaths on construction/mining sites makes risk assessment and a comprehensive risk/safety-management system a must for every site.
- Assess the Hazards
One of the most important steps toward risk reduction is a thorough assessment of all the risks on any job site. This must be done by either a professional adviser or the job site supervisor. Knowing the potential hazards and all of the relevant factors on the construction/mining site can produce a series of regulations geared toward safe working conditions.
- Make sure workers are properly trained
There has been an influx of unskilled workers on countless construction/mining sites due a limited supply of skilled labourers. Correct training is required before placing this segment of the workforce at risk. Training in the use of certain equipment, as well as explaining what to do when something goes wrong, is very important to safety.
- Don’t take short cuts
Short cuts in electrical tasks, fall protection and the handling of flammable products can be fatal to workers. Do the job properly, following the outlined steps and procedures.
- Wear the required safety equipment
Steel-toed boots, hardhats, gloves, goggles and earplugs are all pieces of equipment that can stand between a worker and injury. Make sure you wear these items and that the protective gear is in good shape.
- Secure all loads
One of the most common hazards on a construction/mining site is the chance of being struck or killed by falling equipment and supplies. Taking that extra moment to shore up or secure a load could save a life.
- Do not rush
Everyone has other activities or duties that need to be performed during the workday, and often, the first impulse is to rush through a task to get to the next, Construction/Mining requires concentration and time to complete tasks safely and well. Take the time to do the job right.
- Protect yourself from health hazards
Provide comprehensive training, the correct tools and protective gear to handle the chemicals, asbestos and various solvents on a construction/mining site. Keep MSDS sheets outlining proper medical treatment in a readily accessible place for reference.
- Always use guards and barriers
Never remove the guards or safety features from equipment or tools. These were instituted as solutions to past safety issues, and need to remain in place for the workers’ protection. Never move job-site barriers without determining that the risk is no longer present.
- Never work on a dangerous site
Be aware of your surroundings and the risks associated with your own equipment, and check conditions every day, taking into account wear and tear and environmental factors. If a risk is evident, do not work.
- Report unsafe conditions to the appropriate authority
Risk reduction is a serious consideration on any site, and reported hazards are not taken lightly by any responsible supervisor. Construction/Mining sites are also complex and physically immense, so some risks can be overlooked unless reported.
Elephants in the room
After all these years, I must still visit a workplace where I can’t identify at least one elephant in the room. Don’t fool yourself, they are still there and tolerating risks does not make them go away.