How much can software-based risk assessments save your business?

It makes sense to calculate just how much money you can save with risk assessment software before you sign up. So using our risk assessment productivity case study, we’ve calculated the savings for a business to be between $72.25 and $116.15 per worker, per month. Not too shabby. Under plant conditions these savings increase to between $144.50 and $231.63. Even better.

So far we’ve discerned that risk assessment forms take around 9-16 minutes to complete whereas with SafeWorkPro’s software alternative, the risk assessment workflow only took 4-8 minutes. That’s a time saving of 50 to 55 per cent! To get a better idea of the steps behind these savings, take a look at the below diagram that shows time-cost associated with the paper-based method.

The same workflow is used when using a software-based process compared to a paper-based process but the average time a reduced. From this we can determine a time saving per worker. The next diagram shows the average time spent on software-based risk assessments.

As you can see, risk assessment software offers massive time savings and as the old saying goes ‘time is money’. But before we get into the specifics of how we came to these figures it should be noted that the savings below do not take into account the cost of safety management software. Nonetheless the results are still great.

Let’s begin by calculating the time spent completing the risk management procedure for an individual worker every month.

Avg job time = 4 to 8 mins
Avg jobs per month = 20 jobs
Avg job time x avg jobs per month
= 4 to 8 mins x 20 jobs
1.3 to 2.6 hours per month

Depending on where the invoices and time sheets are considered, the costs will be on either the contractor’s business or the plant they work for. In these following calculations we include both costs to show a comparison but when you are doing your own cost analysis you must consider which business will be liable.

The average cost of a worker is:

Avg cost to business = $42.50/hour (Hour much you pay your workers)

Or

Avg cost to plant = $85/hour (How much you charge for your workers)

Therefore to calculate the amount of money spent in a month for a single worker:

Avg cost to business x hours per month
= $42.50 x 1.3 to 2.6
$55.25 to $110.50 per month per worker

Or

Avg cost to plant x hours per month
= $85.00 x 1.3 to 2.6
$110.50 to $221.00 per month per worker

What about the annual cost? The figures taken from our survey of a business that employed 12 workers indicate that:

Business cost per month per worker x number of workers x number of months
= $55.25 to $110.50 x 12 x 12
$7,956.00 to $15,912.00 per year

Or

Plant cost per month per worker x number of workers x number of months
= $110.50 to $221.00 x 12 x 12
$15,912.00 to $31,824.00 per year

For any business this is a lot of money. So what is the potential saving minus the cost of this health and safety management software?

Paper based business cost per year – software based business cost per year
= ($18,360.00 to $32,639.00) – ($7,956.00 to $15,912.00)
$10,404.00 to $16,727.00 business savings per year

Or

Paper based plant cost per year – software based plant cost per year
= ($36,720.00 to $65,279.52) – ($15,912.00 to $31,824.00)
= $20,808 to $33,355.52 plant saving per year

For businesses this is a saving of $72.25 to $116.15 per worker, per year. Moreover this saves $144.50 to $231.63 for each worker a year.

The potential savings calculated here do not include the cost of the risk assessment system but considering OHS laws and regulations aren’t going anywhere, you should view software as an investment. Once you have established the cost of the software system you intend to use, you can calculate your return on investment (ROI). We think you’ll be pleasantly surprised. In the meantime you can read more about how SafeWorkPro’s job safety analysis software can cut your costs and boost productivity.

Risk Assessment Workflow for Construction Workers

In the hussle and bussle of high risk construction work, an independent contractor will be on several different sites in a month so having a firm understanding of the risk assessment worksheet is vital. At each construction site they must carry out several safety and risk management processes or face strict penalties. Below is a high-level diagram of the processes that construction contractors should carry out based on our risk assessment productivity case study.

1. Create Risk Assessment: Before starting any high risk construction work, a risk assessment must be conducted. Also known as a job safety analysis, risk assessments must include a safe work method statement (SWMS) and a risk assessment matrix.

2. Present to Foreman: The foreman or manager on the worksite must be presented with the risk assessment and SWMSs before work commences.

3. Conduct Work: All work should be conducted in a safe manner that complies with the safe operating procedures specified in the risk assessment.

4. Filing and Auditing: At the end of the day (or job) the risk assessments and SWMS’s should be filed and kept to pass any possible audits within the next 7 years.

There are two really good reasons why you should do risk assessments. First and foremost, they are designed to help keep your workmates safe. It is possible that a period of time will elapse between your team’s risk assessment training and its actual practice. So a risk assessment is a great way to remind your team of the inherent risks in high risk construction work and show them what risk management steps must be taken. The second reason you should do risk assessments is that you are legally required to. The Workplace Health and Safety Act 2011 states that before carrying out any high risk work you must do them or face strict fines and penalties.

So, where to from here? If you have a paper-based process in place, have a look at how much time and how much money this costs your business. Or if you are ready to tech-up and automate your process online then have a look at SafeWorkPro. Lets work safe Australia!

Risk Assessment Review

Writing risk assessments is something people involved in high risk construction work deal with on a daily basis. The paperwork involved can seem monotonous and just plain annoying which begs the question: why are risk assessments important?

A successfully completed risk assessment can be the one thing preventing an accident or injury in the workplace. Safety should be an employer’s first priority, so how do you tell a good risk assessment from a bad one? Well to ensure you safely finish the job, here’s some risk assessment guidance.

1: Keep it simple, stupid

Use short and active words to describe the risks and the control measures. The more words a risk assessment for construction has, the more opportunities a worker has to misread it. That isn’t to say your risk assessments should include as few words as possible but by using an active tone (ie ‘clean work area’ not ‘work area must be cleaned’) you’ll minimise confusion and make reading it a lot easier.

2: Review and record any changes

High risk construction work is continually changing and new, previously unseen risks can emerge throughout the course of a job. If new risks or hazards do become apparent, ensure they are recorded into the existing risk assessment and made available for all workers on site to see. Clear communication between workers will prevent an accident occurring just because someone forgot to read the updated risk assessment forms.

3: Keep an ear out for possible alternatives

Paperwork isn’t the best way to complete risk assessments. Sure it’s been used for years and most workers are pretty content with it, but paperwork is time consuming and a total hassle for managers to store for later use should an audit be requested. Risk assessment software is a growing area of interest in the construction industry and something we here at SafeWorkPro take very seriously. Knowing what new technological developments can improve your productivity and safety will define how your business grows into the future.

For more information of the risk assessment process and other useful tips, checkout the SafeWorkPro Blog.

Hazard Assessment in Confined Spaces

In the previous article ‘Working in Confined Spaces Risk Assessment’, we looked at the definition of ‘confined space’ and what generic risks and hazards are associated with it. It is clear that confined spaces fall under the mandate of what constitutes high risk construction workBased on the Work Health and Safety Regulation 2011, Safe Work Australia outlines many of the considerable hazards involving with working in confined spaces but there substantial details to each of these that should be noted.

o Restricted entry or exit (an area no designed for humans to work in)

o Presence of harmful airborne contaminants

o Unsafe oxygen level caused when oxygen in the atmosphere is:

  • displaced by gases produced during biological processes, for example, methane in a sewer
  • displaced during purging of a confined space with an inert gas to remove flammable or toxic fumes
  • depleted inside metal tanks and vessels through surface oxidation (for example, when rust forms)
  • consumed during combustion of flammable substances
  • absorbed or reacts with grains, wood chips, soil or chemicals in sealed silos.
  • reacts with chemicals that increase risk of explosion or fire (eg hydrogen peroxide)
  • leaks from oxygen tank or fitting during use of oxy-acetylene equipment

o Fire and explosion

  • Flammable gas, mist or vapour in atmosphere exceeds 5% of its lower explosive limit (LEL)
  • Evaporation of flammable residue
  • Use of flammable materials
  • Chemical reaction (eg build up methane from sewer)
  • Presence of combustible dust (flour in silo)

o  Introduction of an ignition source into atmosphere. Such sources may include:

  • open flames and hot surfaces
  • electrical equipment
  • internal combustion engines
  • metal tools striking metal surfaces
  • spark-producing equipment for example grinding wheels
  • static electricity

 

o Engulfment leading to asphyxiation

  • Confined spaces with stored materials including plastics, sand, liquids, fertiliser, grain, coal, coal products, fly ash, animal feed and sewage

 

o Uncontrolled introduction of substances

  • Substances include steam, water or other liquids, gases or solids that may result in a person drowning, being overcome by fumes or other harm
  • Build up of exhaust fumes, including carbon monoxide, from nearby vehicles including LPG forklifts

 

o Contact with biological agents

  • Such as micro-organism like virus, bacteria or fungi which can cause infectious diseases, dermatitis or lung conditions such as hypersensitivity pneumonitis
  • Sewers, grain silos and manure pits are confined spaces where biological hazards may be present

o Exposure to mechanical hazards

  • The entanglement, crushing, cutting, piercing or shearing of parts of a person’s body from mechanical hazards including augers, agitators, blenders, mixers and stirrers

 

o Contact with electrical hazards

  • Electrocution, shocks or burns caused by cables, transformers, capacitors, relays, exposed terminals and wet surfaces where electrical circuit and electrically powered plant are used

 

o Skin contact with hazardous substances

  • Increased likelihood of skin contact with contaminated surfaces resulting in burns, irritation, allergic dermatitis or long-term systematic effects

 

o Noise

  • Noise caused by plant, work method or process may be amplified due to noise reflections off hard surfaces

 

o Manual tasks

  • Physical restraints of confined space may exacerbate hazards relating to manual tasks
  • Further hazards may arise from use of PPE that restricts movement, grip and mobility

 

o Radiation

  • Sources of radiation may include x-rays, lasers, welding flash, radio frequency and microwaves

 

o Environmental hazards

  • Factors that contribute or cause harm such as heat or cold stress, inadequate lighting
  • Slips, trips and falls

 

o Control methods for hazards near or adjacent to a confined space (pg 19)

  • Hazards outside the confined space: ie vertical opening = risk of falling in space
  • Traffic hazards should the confined space be located under or near a road
  • Exhaust gas from a adjacent vehicle or machine may contaminate the confined area
  • Confined areas adjacent to work involving flammable substances
For more information on how to reduce the risks associated with the above hazards, consult the control measures for working in confined spaces. 

Risk assessment for chemicals checklist

When working with hazardous substances or chemicals, it is especially important to effectively complete risk assessments. One way to help in this area is to complete a risk assessment checklist before beginning any high risk construction work.

hazardous substances risk assessment is a useful component of safe operating procedures but risk assessment checklists are a great way to double check any workplace precautions. This is beneficial due to the increased risks in construction presented by the potential long-term health effects of exposure to hazardous substances.

The below is a risk management checklist based on the codes of practices for managing risks of hazardous chemicals.

1: Does a risk assessment need to be carried out?

2: Has it been decided who will carry out the risk assessment?

3a: Have all the hazardous chemicals in the workplace been identified?

3b: Has a hazardous chemical register been produced?

·      A register is a list of hazardous substances, accompanied by a safety data sheet, and easily accessed by all duty holders

4: Has information about the hazardous chemical been identified?

5a: Have other previous relevant records, including risk assessments, been checked?

·      If yes: have any specific hazardous substances been assessed as high risk?

6: Does the hazardous substance have any health hazards?

7: Does the hazardous substance have any physicochemical hazards?

8: Does the hazardous substance have an exposure stands?

·      Refer to Workplace Exposure Standards for Airborne Contaminants

9: Do workers involved in the work related to hazardous substances require health monitoring?

·      Refer to Part 7.1, Div. 6 and Schedule 14 of the WHS Regulation 2011

10: Is there a potential for workers to be exposed to hazardous substances at the workplace including by-products and waste?

·      Consider these questions:

o   Is the substance released into the work area’s atmosphere?

o   Are people located in the immediate vicinity?

o   How long are workers exposed for?

o   Are there risks involved in the storage and/or transportation of the hazardous substance?

11: Are the controls measures specified in the risk assessment effective in controlling hazards and reviewed regularly?

12: Are risks not significant, significant but adequately controlled, significant but not adequately controlled or uncertain?

13: Have any actionable safety procedures been conducted as a result of question 12?

14: Has the risk assessment been recorded for future reference?

Why Should You Keep Records of Risk Assessment Reports?

There are two answers to this question. First of all, creating safety culture within all aspects of the Australian workforce is the purpose of risk assessment. So by keeping records of completed risk assessments you have documents to refer back to for help with future health and safety tasks. This is useful for normalising a culture of workplace safety. The second reason for keeping risk assessment records is far more pragmatic.

The Work Health and Safety Act outlines the responsibilities duty holders have in creating and maintaining a safe workplace. Keeping records of risk assessments indicates potential compliance with these laws and can help ensure businesses do not get stung with hefty penalties.

Keeping records of the risk management process has many benefits. These include:

  • Demonstrates to customers, clients, regulators and other business associates that health risks at work are being managed effectively
  • risk assessment review can be conducted more easily, resulting in greater business flexibility should OHS laws and regulations change
  • Provides a base for preparing future safe operating procedures
  • Allows more effective risk assessment training based on targeted goals
  • Demonstrates how a person conducting a business of undertaking (PCBU) made risk management decisions

When keeping records of risk assessments, it’s useful to make special note of information like:

  • Possible changes to either work practices or the workplace in general
  • Any risk assessment training courses undertaken
  • The parties that were consulted with during the risk management process
  • When and how the risk assessment was implemented and reviewed
  • The hazards and risks identified and the selected control methods
  • Any complementary risk assessment forms including safety checklists, worksheets and risk assessment matrices

The scale and depth of maintaining risk assessment records may vary according to the size and nature of a business. In regards to a construction site risk assessment, there are certain requirements for how long risk assessments should be kept. Depending on the jurisdiction, risk assessment should be kept between five to seven years after a dangerous incident has taken place. Unless an incident has taken place, there is no minimum time period PCBU’s are required to keep records for but the practice is recommended nonetheless.

PCBU’s must also ensure all employees are aware of record keeping requirements including their locations and how to access them. For more information on record keeping for risk assessments read Safe Work Australia’s code of practice. Alternative you can read the SafeWorkPro Blog for answers to more basic risk assessment questions. 

How much does paper-based risk assessments cost your business?

Every business risk is different but if you take an average value on the cost associated with each part of the risk analysis process, you’ll get a fair idea about how inefficient the paper-based method actually is. The data presented here was taken by surveying a construction business of 12 workers and represents a significant part of our broader risk assessment productivity case study. The average time spent on risk assessment processes per job is:

Avg job time = 9 to 16 mins (for more information in time calculations read here)

Avg no. of jobs per worker, per month = 20 jobs

Therefore to calculate the amount of time spent in a month for each worker:
Avg job time x avg jobs per month
= 9 to16 mins x 20 jobs
= 180 to 320 mins per month
3 to 5.3 hours per month

So we know that for a business of 12 workers, around three to five hours a month is spent completing risk assessment sheets. Depending on where the invoices and time sheets are considered, the costs will be on either the contractor’s business or the plant they work for. In these following calculations we include both costs to show a comparison. The average cost of a worker is:

Avg cost to business = $42.50/hour (Hour much you pay your workers)

Or

Avg cost to plant = $85/hour (How much you charge for your workers)

Therefore to calculate the amount of money spent in a month for a single worker:

Avg cost to business x hours per month
= $42.50 x 3 to 5.3
= $127.50 to $226.66 business cost per month, per worker

Or

Avg cost to plant x hours per month
= $85.00 x 3 to 5.3
= $255.00 to $453.33 plant cost per month, per worker

When you spread these numbers over a 12-month period, it becomes clear just how much money is spent conducting a risk assessment. For a construction contracting business in this survey that has 12 workers the annual cost is:

Business cost per month per worker x number of workers x number of months
= $127.50 to $226.66 x 12 x 12
$18,360.00 to $32,639.00 per year

Or

Plant cost per month per worker x number of workers x number of months
= $255.00 to $453.33 x 12 x 12
$36,720.00 to $65,279.52 per year

No matter how you change the numbers associated with your business there is no getting away from the underlying cost that a risk assessments and SWMS’s related processes have on your business. These approximate calculations do not include the time spent in administration of creating and maintaining a set of SWMS’s that a QTP (Qualified Trade Person) must sign-off. So, how can you reduce this cost? We believe the answer lies in business automation using software-based systems.

The Health Risks of Asbestos Poisoning

Strictly speaking, asbestos poisoning is not a medical term but it does broadly describe the range of potentially life threatening diseases someone can contract if exposed to asbestos fibres. Although the different types of asbestos have varying levels of danger, all have the potential to cause disease if mishandled. SafeWorkPro has more information on how to identify asbestos and manage it through an asbestos risk assessment. Regardless of this, the best safe operating procedures begin with a basic understanding of the health risks surrounding asbestos.

Asbestosis

What is it?

Asbestosis is an incurable lung disease characterised by the scarring of lung tissue caused by the inhalation of asbestos fibres. Unlike lung cancer or mesothelioma, people with asbestosis can live for decades after diagnosis but as time passes, the individual’s condition will deteriorate and require more treatment.

Symptoms:

Asbestosis is caused by sharp, minuscule asbestos fibres becoming lodged in the lung tissue. Over the period of 20 to 30 years, the fibres cause inflammation and eventually scarring as the body attempts to heal. The severity of the symptoms depends of the length of an individual’s exposure to asbestos and include:

  • Swelling in the face and neck
  • Shortness of breath and coughing
  • Chest pain
  • Loss of appetite and weight loss
  • Swallowing difficulties
  • Blood in the lung mucus (sputum)
  • Crackling noise in breathing
  • High blood pressure/hyper tension
  • Deformed fingers

Treatment:

Due to the fact that no cure currently exists for asbestosis, the treatment methods commonly offered are designed to manage the symptoms rather than treat the cause. Along with healthier lifestyle and diet changes, supplemental oxygen and antibiotics, several treatment options are available for sufferers of asbestosis.

  • Pulmonary rehabilitation: a long-term treatment that teaches better breathing methods, exercise techniques and stress relief.
  • Prescription medications that ease pain and dilute secretions.
  • Respiratory physiotherapy to remove lung secretions

For more information on asbestosis, check out the Australian Asbestos Network.

Benign Pleural Disease

This is the most common form of disease found in people that have been exposed to asbestos. Benign pleural diseases are usually not life threatening but can cause extreme discomfort and pain, and can be symptomatic of late stage mesothelioma. The four main types of asbestos related pleural disease include:

  • Pleural plaques: these are patches of fibrous thickening that develop between the rib bones and the lining of the lung. Plaques are generally not viewed as a serious health issue but can cause painful and difficult breathing patterns.
  • Pleural effusions: this occurs when fluid is leaked into the space between the lung and the membrane that lines it. Although not life threatening on its own, pleural effusions cause extreme chest pain can reoccur even after treatment.
  • Pleural thickening: this is when the lining of the lung tissue becomes irritated resulting in lesions and swelling. In unusual cases, pleural thickening can be life threatening as it severely disrupts breathing patterns.
  • Pleuritis: this occurs after the lining of the lung tissue (pleura) becomes inflamed causing significant chest and shoulder pain.

In most cases the best treatment for pleural disease is lifestyle changes (ie quitting smoking) and appropriate exercise. If you are experiencing any of these symptoms you should contact your doctor immediately as it may be indicative of lung cancer.

Mesothelioma

What is it?

Mesothelioma is a form of cancer that can take anywhere between 20 and 50 years to display symptoms. It is caused by asbestos fibres that become lodged in the tissue surrounding the lungs, resulting in cellular damage that eventually leads to tumour growth. This is known as pleural malignant

mesothelioma and represents the most common form of this disease. However asbestos inhalation can also cause this cancer to occur in the lining of the abdominal cavity (peritoneal) and the heart (pericardial).

Symptoms:

The different forms of mesothelioma have varying symptoms of which more information can be found out about here. Symptoms, even those displayed in the later stages of the disease’s progression, can be subtle and unnoticeable. Early signs can be so insignificant that even doctors can misinterpret them as a simple ache or illness. The most common symptoms for mesothelioma include:

  • Constant fatigue
  • Loss of appetite and weight loss
  • Chest pain
  • Breathing difficulties
  • Dry coughing
  • Shortness of breath

Current medical research is aimed at finding earlier diagnosis systems but there are several more symptoms that indicate mesothelioma has spread to other parts of the body. These symptoms include:

  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Obstruction of the superior vena cava (a vessel that carries blood into the heart) leading to shortness of breath and facial swelling
  • Low blood sugar levels (hypoglycaemia)
  • Damage to nerves attached to voice box (laryngeal) leading to harsh breathing and speaking

Treatment:

Currently no cure for mesothelioma exists but there several treatment options available that can alleviate symptoms and extend life expectancy.

  • Surgery: this treatment method can be used to remove tumours, alleviate pain for improved quality of life or to secure a biological sample for diagnosis.
  • Chemotherapy: a chemical infusion into the bloodstream that aims to kill cancer cells, reduce the size and spread of tumours and prolong survival. Unfortunately chemotherapy cannot cure mesothelioma and comes with significant side effects including hairs loss, nausea and weight loss.
  • Radiation therapy: this is used to stunt the growth of tumours and has been known to increase life expectancy and alleviate pain. Radiation therapy can be used at any stage of mesothelioma and includes the side effects of skin irritation, inflammation of the oesophagus, fatigue and nausea.

 

Beside mesothelioma and lung cancer, asbestos poisoning has been linked to the following cancers:

  • Prostate
  • Gallbladder
  • Hodgkin’s lymphoma
  • Non- Hodgkin’s lymphoma
  • Kidney
  • Leukemia
  • Gastrointestinal
  • Colorectal
  • Laryngeal
  • Breast
  • Ovarian
For more information or help, contact your local GP.

How To Identify Asbestos

A key aspect of a safe and complete asbestos risk assessment is the inclusion of a hazardous substance risk assessment form. This is not something that should be taken lightly as asbestos in homes is a real risk in any property built before 1990. Therefore knowing how to identify asbestos is a critical step in any type of asbestos training.

But this can be an expensive option. If you wish to test any material you suspect of containing asbestos, you can contact the National Association of testing Authorities for an independent evaluation. With over 3000 asbestos containing products used in construction prior to 1990, professional consultation and testing is the safest option for the identification of this highly hazardous material. But there are several common characteristics of asbestos containing materials.

Warning signs: look for any warning signs or labels that indicate the existence of asbestos.

Age: any property built before the late 1980’s could contain asbestos. Consult with local authorities, the structure’s builder, previous owners and neighbours.

Fasteners and joints:  check the battens used to to cover the joints between sheets of asbestos containing materials like AC sheeting. Any broken battens, gaps in joiners or loose nails, can indicate the presence of asbestos.

Close inspection: if you have a digital camera with a macro mode function, use it to take a close up photo of the material. Asbestos fibres are microscopic but the strands that are made up of these fibres can often be found clumped together (see left image for example). Note: never break the material apart to check as it could release asbestos fibres into the immediate area. 

It must be noted that these are initial steps and cannot guarantee the total identification of all asbestos materials. For that, an accredited asbestos specialist will need to be engaged.

Hazardous Substances Risk Assessment

Managing risk can be a complicated task especially when looking at a risk assessment for chemicals. This is a whole new ball game for risk management consultants and the harmonisation of regulatory frameworks don’t make this any clearer. The problem hazardous substances (or chemicals) have in high risk construction work is that the

ordinary worker won’t know how to identify the specific elements and compounds that make a substance hazardous, nor have an in depth understanding of the appropriate control measures.

To soften the inherent risks involved to the maximum degree possible, Safe Work Australia and the relevant state regulators require the importers and manufacturers of hazardous chemicals to provide a Safety Data Sheet (SDS) to the people or organisations using their product. The SDS provides the PCBU and workers with information on the dangers involved with a substance, the controls methods and forms of treatment should an incident occur. All this information is vital in the writing of a compliant hazardous substances risk assessment.

A hazardous substance risk assessment form differs from other risk assessment in construction in that it must include information such as the health effects, signal words, precautionary details, control measures and recommended protective equipment that are outlined in the SDS. An example of this in a risk assessment form is below.

That all being said, the underlying elements of a compliant risk assessment for construction, including the hierarchy of control measures, remains largely the same. Hazard and risk identification, the implementation of control measures, the duty of care and review process, all remain core components of a hazardous substance risk assessment.

For more information, read Safe Work Australia’s guide for the preparation of Safety Data Sheets.