Risk assessments - who does them?

Risk assessments - who does them? Hi, I have been told that as a lab tech I have to write risk assessments for the teachers for classroom use. I know that they should definitely be writing their own as they're the ones doing the experiment and I am not. Is there any documentation that says that it's THEIR obligation to write them and not someone else? If not, what can I say to change this?

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Publication Date: 30 July 2014
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Answer by labsupport on question Answer by labsupport on question Answer by labsupport on question Answer by Dale.Carroll on question Risk assessments - who does them?

13/12/2019 edited to update information and links

It is important to follow the policies of your particular school regarding the management of risk. For example the following jurisdictions have information on their policies and procedures:

  • The Victorian Department of Education and Training: 'Chemical Management Procedure'1  see section 3.6.3 Risk Assessment for science experiments
  • The Queensland Department of Education: 'Guideline for managing risks with chemicals in DoE workplaces', see Chapter 5: chemical risk management 

In the Model Code of Practice on “How to manage the risks associated with hazardous chemicals in the workplace”, Section 3 'The risk management process' includes the topic 3.1: ‘Decide who should do the assessment'. This speaks of a collaborative approach, depending upon the expertise of the people involved. For complex cases, a number of people may need to be involved.

Generally, the risk assessment for a practical activity in the laboratory/classroom environment would be conducted by the classroom teacher. They will need to assess the activity in view of their students' skills, abilities, behaviour, any medical conditions and the room facilities. The risk assessment for processes in the preparation room, generally would be conducted by the science technician. However, there may be times when a technician may have more knowledge of a chemical/process/technical skill than the teacher or vice versa. At these times a collaborative approach is most appropriate.  

References:

1 Victorian Department of Education and Training. 2018. 'Chemical Management Procedure'Victorian Department of Education and Training website, http://www.education.vic.gov.au/school/teachers/management/Pages/chemica...

Queensland Department of Education and Training. 2019. 'Guideline for managing risks with chemicals in DoE workplaces' ,Queensland Department of Education website, https://education.qld.gov.au/initiativesstrategies/Documents/guideline-m...(If this link does not work then go to the link in the document ‘Managing risks with chemicals in Department of Education workplaces’, Queensland Department of Education website, http://ppr.det.qld.gov.au/corp/hr/workplace/Procedure%20Attachments/Mana... February 2020])

Safe Work Australia. 2018. 'Model Code of Practice: Managing risks of hazardous chemicals in the workplace', Safe Work Australia website. https://www.safeworkaustralia.gov.au/doc/model-code-practice-managing-ri...

 

Risk assessments - who does them?

According to the Safe Work Australia document: 

MANAGING RISKS OF HAZARDOUS CHEMICALS IN THE WORKPLACE from 

http://www.safeworkaustralia.gov.au/sites/SWA/about/Publications/Documen...

3.1 Decide who should do the assessment

Assessments are based on a thorough understanding of what happens, or might happen, in the workplace and should be carried out by a person or persons who have:

  • „a practical understanding of the WHS Regulations, codes of practice and relevant guidance materials„
  • an understanding of the work processes involved at the workplace
  • „enough resources to gather information, consult the appropriate people, review existing records and examine the workplace.

The person or persons should also have abilities to:

  • „interpret the information on the label and SDS of the hazardous chemical
  • „ observe the conditions of work and to foresee potential problems
  • „ communicate effectively and consult with workers, contract workers, managers and technical specialists
  • „draw all the information together in a systematic way to form valid conclusions about exposures and risks
  • „accurately report the findings to all parties concerned.

A single person such as a supervisor may be suitably competent to perform simple assessments. In more complex cases, several persons representing a variety of skills may need to be involved in collecting and assessing the information. This may also include workers and their health and safety representatives. 

It does not explicitly say who is responsible for writing the risk assessment.  However, it seems the supervisor (the teacher) takes more responsibility.  However, I cannot see a reason why a technician should not be asked to do the risk assessment.

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