While there is no single ‘right way’ to perform a risk assessment, there is an overall process that should be followed to ensure the assessment is effective. This process can be broken down as follows:
- Identify all hazards using your organisation’s identification procedures.
- Determine who or what might be harmed by the hazard, how they would be harmed and the potential consequences.
- Evaluate/score the risk (likelihood of it happening and the impact).
- Record your findings from the assessment and update your organisation’s risk register.
The frequency of your organisation’s risk assessments depends on your activities. For example, if you carry out rail movements several times a year, you won’t need to perform risk assessments as often as you would if you ran daily scheduled services.
Choosing appropriate safety controls
After identifying and prioritising your risks, a decision needs to be made on the safety controls required to reduce the risk so far as is reasonably practicable (or to remove the risk completely).
The most effective safety control for a hazard is one that reduces its effects, the likelihood of an accident or incident occurring, and the consequences of such an event should it occur. Deciding on the appropriate safety control required should follow your organisation’s decision process, which should include:
- assessing current safety controls for the same or similar risks and how effective they are
- determining whether there are any legal requirements relevant to the risk (eg handling asbestos, preventing falls from heights)
- consulting with others who do similar work to see how they manage the risk
- enlisting specialist advice where appropriate (eg HASANZ(external link))
- consulting with your workers to ensure they are part of the decision
- consulting with other rail operators and other organisations (eg councils) who may share control over the risk
- considering whether the control(s) would work in your specific environment, and
- assessing whether the control itself could create other risks.
Before implementing the safety control, the process should include:
- consulting with anyone affected by the safety control and ensuring they’re given the appropriate training before it’s implemented
- amending appropriate documentation to reflect the new safety control (eg reporting, auditing, maintenance records), and
- providing adequate supervision to ensure the control is being implemented correctly.
You should also consider what could create a vulnerability in your control. For instance, the effectiveness of a safety procedure is reduced if the worker is tired or distracted. Therefore, to manage tiredness, you might also need to educate staff, provide self-detection checklists, and encourage regular breaks.