Risk Assessment – a legal requirement in terms of the Occupational Health and Safety Act

What is a risk assessment?

Risk assessment is the term used to describe the overall process or method that we:

  • Identify hazards and risk factors that have the potential to cause harm (hazard identification).
  • Analyze and evaluate the risk associated with that hazard (risk assessment).
  • Determine appropriate ways to eliminate the hazard, or control the risk when the hazard cannot be eliminated (risk control).

When we conduct a risk assessment we take a thorough look at your workplace to identify those things, situations, processes, etc. that may cause harm, particularly to people. The assessment is not only a physical look, but includes a variety of information gathering methods, including statistics, reports, interviews, SHE Rep and Committee minutes and more. After identification is made, we analyze and evaluate how likely it is that an injury or incident will happen, and how severe the risk is. Once this determination is made, Alute, together with your team will decide what measures should be put in place to effectively eliminate or control the harm from happening.

Why is risk assessment important?

Risk assessments are very important as they form an integral part of an occupational health and safety management plan. The risk assessment will:

  • Create awareness of hazards and risk.
  • Identify who may be at risk (e.g., employees, cleaners, visitors,      contractors, the public, etc.).
  • Determine whether a control program is required for a particular      hazard.
  • Determine if existing control measures are adequate or if more      should be done.
  • Prevent injuries or illnesses, especially when done at the design      or planning stage.
  • Prioritize hazards and control measures.
  • Meet legal requirements.

When should a risk assessment be done?

The Act says you must conduct a risk assessment:

  • Immediately if it has never been done before,
  • before new processes or activities are introduced,
  • before changes are introduced to existing processes or activities,      including when products, machinery, tools, equipment change or new      information concerning harm becomes available, or
  • when hazards are identified.

How we carry out risk assessments.

Assessments are done by a competent person or team of individuals who have a good working knowledge of the situation being studied. Alute SA works together with your delegates, as an intimate knowledge of your operation is essential when conducting the assessment. Your team may include at times, the supervisors and workers who work with the processes under review as these individuals are the most familiar with the operation.

In general, to do an assessment, we:


  • Identify hazards.
  • Determine the likelihood of harm, such as an injury or illness occurring, and its severity.


  • Consider normal operational situations as well as non-standard events such as maintenance, shutdowns, power outages, emergencies, extreme weather, etc.
  • Review all available health and safety information about the hazard such as Safety Data Sheet (SDS),       manufacturers literature, information from reputable organizations, results of testing, workplace inspection reports, records of workplace incidents (accidents), including information about the type and frequency of the occurrence, illnesses, injuries, near misses, etc.
  • Understand the minimum legislated requirements.
  • Identify actions necessary to eliminate the hazard, or control the risk using the hierarchy of risk control methods.
  • Evaluate to confirm if the hazard has been eliminated or if the risk is appropriately controlled.
  • Monitor to make sure the control continues to be effective.
  • Keep any documents or records that may be necessary. Documentation may include detailing the process used to assess the risk, outlining any evaluations, or detailing how conclusions were made, which is what Alute SA will provide together with the reports.

When doing an assessment, we also take into account:

  • The methods and procedures used in the processing, use, handling or storage of the substance, etc.
  • The actual and the potential exposure of workers (e.g., how many workers may be exposed, what that exposure is/will be, and how often they will be exposed).
  • The measures and procedures necessary to control such exposure by means of engineering controls, work practices, and hygiene practices and facilities.
  • The duration and frequency of the task (how long and how often a task is done).
  • The location where the task is done.
  • The machinery, tools, materials, etc. that are used in the operation and how they are used (e.g., the physical state of a chemical, or lifting heavy loads for a distance).
  • Any possible interactions with other activities in the area and if the task could affect others (e.g., cleaners, visitors, etc.).
  • The lifecycle of the product, process or service (e.g., design, construction, uses, decommissioning).
  • The education and training the workers have received.
  • How a person would react in a particular situation (e.g., what would be the most common reaction by a person if the machine failed or malfunctioned).

It is important to remember that the assessment takes into account not only the current state of the workplace but any potential situations as well.

By determining the level of risk associated with the hazard, the employer, and the health and safety committee (where appropriate), can decide whether a control program is required and to what level.

What is the cost for Alute SA to carry out a risk assessment?

Assessments can vary in terms of something as simple as using a photocopier, to assessing an entire manufacturing plant. The depth of a risk assessment should not vary, however the amount of involvement you may require from Alute may vary. We offer risk assessment at various stages, from advice, to overseeing the assessment, to conducting the assessment and this depends on your company’s time and ability to carry out some or all of the requirements.

We also present a risk assessment training course which is ideally suited for your health and safety representatives to carry out further and continuous risk assessments in support of the original assessment with regards any changes to your operation, systems, legislation or people.