plant risk assessment
Plant Risk Assessment
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Plant is the common name given to machinery, tools, appliances and equipment that is used in places of work. The types of plant that are commonly found at workplace include lifts, electrical equipment, power tools, computers, hand held tools, workshop equipment and laboratory equipment, such as autoclaves and centrifuges.

Who has duties in relation to plant at the workplace?

A person conducting a business or undertaking has the primary duty under the Work Health and Safety Act (WHS Act) to ensure, as far as reasonably practicable, that workers and other persons are not exposed to health and safety risks arising from the business or undertaking. This duty includes ensuring, so far as is reasonably practicable:

  • the provision and maintenance of safe plant, and
  • the safe use, handling, storage and transport of plant.

Persons who conduct a business or undertaking involving the management or control of fixtures, fittings or plant at a workplace also have a duty to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable that the fixtures, fittings and plant are without risks to the health and safety of any person.

The WHS Regulations include specific duties for persons who conduct a business or undertaking involving the management or control of plant (person with management or control of plant), including requirements to:

  • manage the health and safety risks associated with plant
  • prevent unauthorised alterations to or interference with plant
  • use plant for the purpose for which it was designed unless the proposed use does not increase the risk to health or safety, and
  • implement and maintain specific control measures to eliminate or minimise risks.

Identifying hazards

Identifying hazards involves finding all of the things and situations that could potentially cause harm to people. Hazards associated with plant generally arise from:

  • The plant itself: For example, hazards associated with a forklift would include hazards relating to its mobility; its electrical, hydraulic and mechanical power sources; its moving parts; its load-carrying capacity and operator protection.
  • How and where the plant is used: The forklift, for example, may have hazards arising from the kind of loads it is used to lift, the size of the area in which it is used and the slope or evenness of the ground.

This can be achieved through:

  • Inspecting the plant and checking for:
    • condition
    • suitability
    • location
    • any abnormal situations
  • Reviewing safety information about the plant (for example technical standards and information provided by manufacturers, importers or suppliers of the plant)
  • Reviewing incident records and data

Assessing the risks

A risk assessment involves considering what could happen if someone is exposed to a hazard (consequence) and the likelihood of it happening. A risk assessment can help you determine:

  • how severe a risk is
  • whether existing control measures are effective
  • what action you should take to control the risk, and
  • how urgently the action needs to be taken.

A risk assessment is unnecessary if you already know the risk and how to control it. To assess the risk associated with plant hazards you have identified, you should consider:

  • What is the potential impact of the hazard?
  • How likely is the hazard to cause harm?
  • What are the conditions under which the plant is used (for example, in a confined space, dusty environment)?
  • Where and when is access required during installation, operation, maintenance and in an emergency?
  • What kind of training, information, instruction and supervision is provided to workers and other persons who may be exposed to hazardous plant?

Controlling the risks

The ways of controlling the risks associated with plant are ranked from the highest level of protection and reliability to the lowest. This ranking is known as the hierarchy of risk control. The WHS Regulations require duty holders to work through this hierarchy to choose the control that most effectively eliminates or minimises the risk in the circumstances. This may involve a single control measure or a combination of two or more different controls.

Reviewing risk control measures

The control measures that are put in place must be reviewed, and if necessary, revised to make sure they work as planned and that no new hazards have been created by the control measure.

A person conducting a business or undertaking must review and as necessary revise control measures:

  • when the control measure is not effective in controlling the risk
  • before a change at the workplace that is likely to give rise to a new or different health and safety risk that the control measure may not effectively control
  • if a new hazard or risk is identified
  • if the results of consultation indicate that a review is necessary
  • if a health and safety representative requests a review.

Keeping records

The WHS Regulations require that a person with management and control of plant at a workplace keep a record for plant that requires design or item registration, including records of all tests, inspections, maintenance, commissioning, decommissioning, dismantling and alterations of the plant.

These records must be kept for the period the plant is used or until the person relinquishes control of the plant. The records must be available for inspection under the WHS Act and be made available to any person to whom the person relinquishes control of the plant.

If there is a presence sensing safeguarding system at a workplace the person with management or control of the plant must keep a record of safety integrity tests, inspections, maintenance, commissioning, decommissioning, dismantling or alterations for the life of the plant or until control is relinquished or in any other case for 5 years.

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What is required to manage the risks associated with plant?

In order to manage risk under the Work Health and Safety Regulations (WHS Regulations), a duty holder must:

  • identify reasonably foreseeable hazards that could give rise to the risk
  • eliminate the risk so far as is reasonably practicable
  • if it is not reasonably practicable to eliminate the risk – minimise the risk so far as is reasonably practicable by implementing control measures in accordance with the hierarchy of risk control
  • maintain the implemented control measure so that it remains effective, and
  • review, and if necessary revise all risk control measures so as to maintain, so far as is reasonably practicable, a work environment that is without risks to health and safety.

Common plant hazards

plant hazards, common hazard types

Hierarchy of controls

hierarchy of controls, plant

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