The biggest responsibility on any employer, as well as the most important duty imposed by the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA) is to conduct a risk assessment. The outcome of such an assessment should inform the decisions and policies the employer institutes to protect the workers, contractors, and visitors to the workplace from any identifiable potential hazard, as far as practicable.

A Hazard identification and Risk Assessment (HIRA) is a formal process evaluating work activities for potential risk. The aim of the process is:

  1. Identify hazards that may cause harm

A hazard is defined as meaning “a source of or exposure to danger.” When assessing the work activities for potential harm, the employer must assess all the tasks performed or machines/equipment used.

  • Assessing the risk for each task evaluated as above.

Risk is defined to mean “the probability that injury or damage will occur.” Risk associated with a specific task should be rated and actioned according to the severity of the risk.

  • Determine the suitable measures to eliminate or control risks.
  • Documenting the process followed and the findings of the HIRA.

There is no prescribed format to report the process and findings of a HIRA, but if an employer needs to prove compliance the process must be documented.

  • Implementing the determined measures to eliminate or control risks.

The final step is to implement the control measures as identified and decided on in step 3, as far as reasonably practicable. Reasonably Practicable is defined to mean “practicable having regard to:

  • the severity and scope of the hazard or risk,
  • the knowledge reasonably available concerning the hazard or risk as well as the means to eliminating or mitigating the hazard or risk,
  • the availability and suitability of the means to eliminate or mitigate the hazard or risk, and
  • the cost of eliminating or mitigating the hazard or risk relative to the benefit of the measures required to do so.”

There are three types of risk assessments:

  1. A Baseline Risk Assessment

A Baseline Risk Assessment should be done if no previous HIRAs had been conducted. The Risk Assessment report should include information on all workplaces, activities or task performed and all machinery or tools used.

  • Issue Based Risk Assessment

Issue based risk assessments should be, and are, typically conducted

  • after new equipment is introduced to the workplace to determine the safety of the equipment and the compliance with legal and other requirements,
  • after an incident, when during an incident investigation a deficiency in internal policies or procedures may have been identified,
  • after new legislation is enacted which may prescribe new requirements with which a business is not currently in compliance.”
  • Continues Based Risk Assessments

These are the regular inspections conducted on equipment or before hazardous activities, and can include daily inspections, critical task observations, and OHS audits.