/* Test bootstrap load... */
WHS Diploma – What is the WHS Risk Management Process?

WHS Diploma – What is the WHS Risk Management Process?

The WHS Risk Management Process

WHS risk management is often described as having three basic steps: hazard identification, risk assessment and risk control.

However, communication and consultation* with stakeholders, key personnel and expert advisers is vital in each stage of the WHS risk management process, as is ongoing monitoring of the outcomes of each stage and of the overall WHS risk management process.

The risk management process that provides the basis for this learning guide is modified from that defined in AS/NZS4360-2004, Risk Management (Standards Australia, 2004a) to more closely reflect the language and approach in the WHS legislation.





Communicate & Consult

Monitor & Review


Hazard identification is all about good quality information. This information is gleaned from a number of sources and may be considered in two categories:

  • historical or ‘second-hand’ data; and
  • data obtained by direct observation or analysis of a particular workplace.

This first element initially considers ‘big picture’ data from outside the workplace (performance criterion 1.1) then examines information available in the workplace (performance criteria 1.2 and 1.3) including changes within the workplace (performance criterion 1.4). Performance criterion 1.4 also considers changes outside the workplace.

In order to complete the first element of the competency unit successfully, you will have to show that you have satisfied the following performance criteria:

1.1 Access external sources of information and data to assist in identifying hazards.

1.2 Review workplace sources of information and data to access and assist in identification of hazards.

1.3 Seek input from stakeholders, key personnel and WHS specialists.

1.4 Conduct formal and informal research to ensure currency of information with workplace issues.

WHS Hazards and Energy

While a hazard is often defined as ‘a source of potential harm’ the learning guide to the competency unit BSBOHS403 Identify hazards and assess OHS risks examined the energy damage concept, which is based on the following principles:

  • Energy
  • Injury and damage are caused by energy.
  • Barrier
  • Energy can be controlled by a barrier

Energies do not normally create injury or damage. Their potential to cause damage is normally controlled by the physical, organisational and/or behavioural features of work and workplace design, environment or processes.

For energy to do damage it has to penetrate the barrier and transfer to the recipient. For example, sound transfers through the air to your ear; a person places their arm in the trapping space of a machine.


(Damage threshold)


(Derek Viner, 1998)

Whether there is damage, and the extent of the damage, depends on whether the amount of energy exceeds the damage threshold of the recipient. Fatalities usually result from occurrences* involving high amounts of energy such as being struck by moving plant, entrapment in machinery or falls from heights. High severity injuries may also result from cumulative energy exchange.

Thus the definition of a hazard is refined to be:

A hazard is a source of potentially damaging energy.

While this definition does not apply equally well to bio-mechanical and psychosocial hazards*, the discussion generated by the model is still useful in generating a better understanding of how the hazard causes damage.

The term ‘hazard’ is often misused by using it to refer to any feature of the physical, organisational and/or behavioural environment, such as a spill on the floor, lack of training or poor work practices, which contribute to an incident or the severity of the outcome. Also, hazards are sometimes referred to as ‘potential’ hazards. Hazards are sources of ‘potential harm’, therefore they are either present or not present. The potential is in their ‘risk’ not in the hazardous nature.

Such misuse of the term ‘hazard’ often leads to poor, or wrong, analyses of WHS problems and therefore a failure to identify effective controls. Andrew Hopkins identified that confusion over the difference in meaning of ‘hazard’ and ‘risk’ hindered the investigation into the Longford explosion (Hopkins, 2002).

Factors such as inadequate work practices, lack of training, or fatigue, are NOT hazards but are failures in controls, or conditions, that may result in injury or damage.

While you now identify a hazard as a source of potentially damaging energy, it is important to realise that energies do not normally create injury or damage. Their potential to cause damage is usually controlled by the physical, organisational and/or behavioural features of the design, environment or process. It is not enough just to identify a hazard − you also need to be able to identify the circumstances and preconditions that lead to the loss of control of the potentially damaging energy.

LMIT delivers the Certificate IV in OHS and the Diploma in Occupational Health & Safety Completely Online.  The Advanced Diploma in OHS is also available via RPL only.

Published by: LMIT

Leave a Reply