Managing Hazards in the Workplace: Comprehensive Hazard Control Steps

Diagram illustrating the hazard control steps of hazard identification, risk assessment, and risk control, represented by labeled arrows and gears.


At the core of all organisational safety initiatives is the control of hazards. The occupational safety and health professional’s role is fundamentally to anticipate, identify, analyse, and control hazards. These tasks should be performed purposefully within the framework of a sound hazard identification and control system. Equally crucial is the ability to accurately assess the risk associated with a hazard and evaluate the effectiveness of controls once they are implemented. This blog delves into the processes of managing hazard identification and control steps, while the technical aspects pertaining to specific hazards are covered separately.

Defining Hazard and Risk

A review of occupational safety and health literature reveals that the terms hazard and risk are often used interchangeably, but they are distinct concepts. Understanding these distinctions is critical for safety professionals as they develop systematic approaches to managing workplace hazards.


A hazard is an object, condition, substance, process, action, or behaviour that has the potential to cause harm. In the occupational safety and health context, a hazard is anything that can cause a worker to sustain an injury or illness, regardless of the severity or likelihood. For example, terms like laceration hazard, fall hazard, or repetitive trauma hazard specify sources of harm or anticipated injuries.


Risk quantifies the probability that a negative outcome will occur due to a hazard and the potential severity of the outcome. Effective hazard management requires assessing the potential impact of hazards both before and after control measures are implemented. Risk assessment involves calculating the degree of risk, considering variables such as the likelihood and severity of an incident.

Accurately defining hazard and risk is not just semantics; it is essential for developing effective hazard identification and control steps.

Caution wet floor sign in a brightly lit hallway, highlighting hazard control steps for preventing slips and falls

Anticipating and Identifying Hazards: Key Steps in Hazard Control

Anticipating and identifying hazards is a prerequisite for effectively analysing and controlling them. Safety professionals aim to identify hazards before injuries occur, though zero risk is often unattainable.

Methods for Identifying Hazards

Organisations should strive to minimise reactive hazard identification and aggressively focus on proactive identification. Methods for identifying hazards include:

  • Informal, verbal employee reports
  • Formal hazard reporting cards/reports
  • Injury and illness trend data
  • Safety suggestion systems
  • Work environment inspections
  • Equipment inspections
  • Preventive maintenance records
  • Pre-job/pretask hazard analyses
  • Job safety analyses
  • Safety meeting discussions/minutes
  • Safety climate/perception surveys
  • Behavioural observations
  • Equipment design drawings and specifications
  • Insurance loss control reports

Meaningful conversations with employees who interact directly with the working environment are crucial for effective hazard identification. Proper documentation and follow-up on hazard reports are essential to ensure hazards are addressed.

Training and Equipping for Hazard Identification

Effective hazard identification requires that personnel are properly trained and equipped with the necessary knowledge and skills. Training can be customised to include provisions for working within the organisation’s hazard identification and control system. Post-training evaluation and coaching are critical to maximise performance.

Analysing Hazards (Assessing the Risk): Critical Hazard Control Steps

Once a hazard is identified, a systematic effort to assess and quantify the risk should follow. This involves examining the hazard and assigning a risk quantification based on the likelihood of injury and the potential severity.

Risk Assessment

Traditional risk assessment considers two variables: likelihood and severity. Modern risk assessment formulas may include additional variables, such as task frequency and workforce engagement. Numerical risk score values correspond with narrative descriptions of risk aspects, guiding the user in selecting a numerical risk value.

A thorough risk assessment process helps organisations make informed decisions about hazard control measures, ranging from abandoning high-risk processes to implementing control measures for low-risk hazards.

Diagram showing the five hazard control steps: Identify the Hazard, Assess the Risk, Evaluate Existing Controls, Implement Additional Risk Control, and Monitor & Review.

Controlling Hazards: The Hierarchy of Hazard Control Steps

In Australia, hazard control follows a hierarchy of controls, categorised from the most to least desirable methods:

  1. Elimination: Removing the hazard entirely. This is the most effective control method, as it completely eliminates the risk of exposure to the hazard.

  2. Substitution: Replacing the hazard with a less serious one. This involves using a safer alternative to the hazardous process, material, or equipment.

  3. Isolation: Separating people from the hazard. This can involve creating barriers or implementing containment strategies to prevent exposure to the hazard.

  4. Engineering Controls: Designing or modifying equipment or processes to reduce exposure to the hazard. Examples include machine guards, ventilation systems, and automated handling systems.

  5. Administrative Controls: Changing the way people work. This includes implementing procedures and policies, training workers, rotating job assignments, and scheduling work to limit exposure to hazardous conditions.

  6. Personal Protective Equipment (PPE): Protecting the worker with equipment. PPE includes items such as gloves, masks, goggles, and protective clothing. It is the least effective control method because it relies on the proper use and maintenance by the worker.

The hierarchy of controls is a process where employers start by evaluating the most desirable controls and continue until the least desirable controls are enacted. This systematic approach ensures that the most effective measures are considered and implemented first to minimise risk and enhance workplace safety.

Implementing and Evaluating Hazard Controls: Essential Hazard Control Steps

After implementing hazard controls, organisations must evaluate their effectiveness. This involves observing behaviours, taking measurements, and surveying employees. The absence of injuries alone is not a sufficient indicator of control effectiveness; data-driven analysis is necessary.

Evaluating System Effectiveness

Ongoing evaluation of the hazard identification and control system is critical. This ensures that the system’s design remains appropriate and that the organisation follows the system as established. Negative findings should warrant corrective actions.

Diagram showing the four hazard control steps: Identify Hazards, Assess Risks, Implement Controls, and Check Controls."


The fundamental tasks of safety professionals involve anticipating, identifying, assessing, and controlling hazards. Understanding the distinctions between hazard and risk is crucial for developing effective hazard control steps. After identifying and assessing hazards, appropriate controls must be implemented and their effectiveness continually evaluated. By strategically developing and maintaining hazard identification and control systems, organisations can significantly improve their occupational safety and health performance.

If you would like to know more or would like our assistance in the areas mentioned check us out at Alternately, call us on 1300 990 336 or email us at [email protected]

author avatar
Brendan Day Chief Executive Officer
Brendan Day, based in Sydney, is a WHS and Emergency Management expert with a rich background in emergency services, including significant experience as a military firefighter, emergency responder, and emergency response manager. His career spans across both public and private sector roles, where he has developed and implemented comprehensive WHS management and Emergency Management systems. As the CEO and Principle Trainer at Intrinsic Safety, Brendan combines his military discipline with modern safety practices, offering advanced training in workplace health, fire safety, confined spaces, height safety and first aid. His qualifications, including a Diploma of Work Health and Safety, reflect his commitment to safety excellence and continuous improvement in emergency response management and safety practices.
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