What are the basic steps when assessing risk?
There are no fixed rules on how a mine should carry out a risk assessment. However, Australian Standard AS/NZS ISO 31000 Risk Management defines some widely accepted principles that should be followed.
AS/NZS ISO 31000 Risk management - Principles and guidelines is available from Standards Australia.
Five steps should be considered in the assessment of risk to ensure that the risk assessment is adequate. These are summarised below.
Step 1: Identify the hazards
In order to identify hazards, you need to understand the difference between a hazard and risk. A hazard is something with the potential to cause harm.
Further information: For example, a falling object is a hazard. Being struck on the head by a wrench can be an unwanted event associated with this hazard. Not wearing a hard hat is not a hazard but it can reduce the level of risk by reducing the potential impact of the wrench.
Step 2: Decide who is at risk and how
Once you have identified the hazards, you need to understand who might be at risk and how.
Using the falling object scenario, people working in a processing plant near construction work could be at risk if they walk into the drop zone.
Step 3: Evaluate the risks and decide on control measures
Following step 1 and 2, you are then required to, so far as is practicable, protect people from harm. The hazards can either be removed completely or the risks controlled so that an injury is unlikely.
Further information: Using the falling object scenario, the hazard could be controlled by providing edge protection and attachment points to secure tools with a lanyard, and tasks planned to minimise the requirement for tooling deployed at height.
Step 4: Record your findings
Your findings should be written down to document that risk is being effectively managed. Recording the findings shows that you have identified the hazards, decided who could be harmed and how, and have a plan to mitigate the risks.
Step 5: Review your assessment and update as and when necessary
Few mining operations stay the same over time, and a risk assessment should be regularly reviewed to confirm that control measures are effective and no new hazards have been introduced. The risk assessment should be updated if circumstances have changed.
Below is the list of documents and links that you may find useful.
Publication No. 2009-104 The Application of Major Hazard Risk Assessment (MHRA) to Eliminate Multiple Fatality Occurrences in the U.S. Minerals Industry produced by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) is recognised by industry as being a quality guide to the application of risk assessment for safety and health.
The Mineral Industry Risk Management Gateway (MIRMgate) is a not-for-profit initiative of the University of Queensland to provide the minerals industry with comprehensive safety information. It provides access to carefully selected good practice information to help reduce risks in mining, mineral processing, and quarrying operations. The website is intended to specifically assist with the risk assessment process but has also been designed to be searched by hazard, task or subject.