University of Otago Health & Safety

Introduction to Hazard Management

1. What the legislation requires

A principle of the Health and Safety in Employment Act 1992 and Amendment Act 2002 is the requirement of a systematic hazard management process, to identify the potential and actual sources of harm. When the sources of harm are recognised, controls can be put in place to manage the risks, and prevent harm to employees. The hazard register lists the hazards found within the University environment and the controls. As an employee, you should know how to access the register for your department, and how to report hazards you notice.

Hazard Register
Hazard Notification Form

The legislation does not tell employers or employees how to make particular work situations safe and healthy. The legislation requires a systematic approach, but with flexibility, to incorporate information available in the forms of codes of practice, best practice guidelines and the like, to manage hazards effectively and appropriately to the work environment.

The legislative term "all practical steps" requires that what can reasonably be expected given:

  • The type and severity of harm that could occur if nothing is done
  • The likelihood of harm occurring
  • The research and statistics about this type of harm
  • The methods of control available and the effectiveness of these methods
  • The availability of control methods
  • The cost of prevention methods.

The employer has the primary responsibility to have a system in place and manage the hazards. Employers do not have to deal with things that they couldn't possibly have known about or control.

Sections 7 - 10 of the HSE Act outline the requirements with respect to hazard identification and management. These duties complement the employers' general duties in respect of section 6.

1.1 Hazard management sequence

The HSE Act focuses on the effective management of work related hazards, and require the following sequence to be addressed:

  • IDENTIFY likely workplace hazards
  • ASSESS for significant hazards
  • CONTROL the hazard through the required hierarchy (sections 8 - 10)
  • MONITOR any exposure to a hazard that has been minimised (section 10)

1.2 Significant hazards

A significant hazard is one that may cause:

  • Serious harm - see definitions in this manual or schedule 1 of the HSE Act. This includes death and many occupational illnesses and injuries that may be sustained in a place of work; or
  • Harm - the severity of which may depend on how often or how long a person is exposed to the hazard - such as noise induced hearing loss, or
  • Harm that cannot be detected until a significant time after exposure. This includes long-latency diseases caused by exposure to hazardous substances - such as asbestosis, neurotoxicity, and other diseases of occupation.
    Where a 'significant hazard' is identified, the Act requires an employer to:
    • ELIMINATE the hazard from the workplace
    • If elimination is not practicable or is incomplete, take all practicable steps to ISOLATE the hazard (e.g. guarding)
    • If it is impracticable to eliminate or isolate the hazard completely, MINIMISE the likelihood that the hazard will harm employee (e.g. protective clothing and equipment) and MONITOR the effectiveness of this control (e.g. health screening)
      If it is not practicable to eliminate, isolate or minimise a significant hazard, and serious harm is likely, the situation is unacceptable and the work cannot continue.

1.3 Hazard controls

Where a hazard is identified, the employer must take "all practicable steps" to control it, so as to protect employees and others. There are numerous sources of information available on how to control hazards – codes of practice, industry standards, New Zealand Standards.

1.4 Employee involvement

Employee involvement is an underlying principle of the legislation, as employees who do the work are usually aware of the hazards and have ideas on suitable controls. Employees also have responsibility for themselves, and to ensure that their work does not become a hazard of any other person in the place of work. This principle has been extended by the Amendment Act 2002 requiring an agreed employee participation system.


2.1 What is a hazard?

A hazard is any actual or potential cause of harm. It may occur inside or outside of a place of work. It may be:

  • An activity
  • An occurrence
  • An arrangement
  • A phenomenon
  • A circumstance
  • A process
  • An event or
  • A situation.

Hazards may be grouped by type:

  • Slipping/tripping hazards
  • Fire
  • Chemicals
  • Moving parts of machinery
  • Work at height
  • Ejection of material
  • Pressure systems
  • Vehicles
  • Repetitive work
  • Biological hazards
  • Electricity
  • Dust
  • Fumes
  • Manual handling
  • Noise
  • Poor lighting
  • Extreme temperatures


3. Reporting Hazards

The University H&S Systems currently have a number of methods for staff to bring hazards to the attention of management. These include:

  • Notifying the DHSO, supervisor, line manager or the health and safety team of a hazard or concern, either verbally or by a completed hazard notification form.
  • Notifying your Health and Safety Representative
  • Accident and near-miss investigations.
  • Employer/employee forums, departmental meetings, staff meetings.
  • Notification to Unions
  • Continual updates in legislative requirements.
  • Completion of Property Services request forms to address specific hazards.If you notice a hazard, please report the issue to your manager, DHSO or Health and Safety representative. The hazard will be investigated to assess the severity, and to identify suitable controls. If you have identified a hazard, you should be involved in the solution where practicable.


4. Controlling Hazards

When a hazard is identified, it must be assessed for control through the hierarchy of elimination, isolation or minimisation.

Elimination: This is when the hazard is removed from the workplace, such as removing a hazardous substance that is no longer required. Even though the hazard is removed, it must be recorded in the hazard register. If you are substituting a significant hazard with another substance or process, be sure to complete the hazard identification for the new process or substance. Record the decision in the register.

Isolation: This involves isolating or separating the hazard or hazardous work from the employees. It can be achieved by marking off hazardous areas, installing screens, guards or barriers.

Minimisation: Where elimination and isolation are impracticable, minimise the hazards through appropriate controls, such as PPE, work organisation factors, etc. This means that the hazard still exists but exposure to the hazard is controlled to manage the risk.

4.1 Information on hazard controls

Approved Codes of Practice, Guidelines and information

There is a wide range of approved codes of practice, guidelines and safety information published by OSH. The majority of these documents can be downloaded from the web page ( - publications).

New Zealand standards provide information on specific topics and in some cases are recognised by OSH as an acceptable health and safety application (such as confined space entry, noise management). These sources of information should be explored where a significant hazard exists and the highest level of information applied (

4.2 University controls

Where generic or common hazard exists, University health and safety policies have been designed to provide internal guidance on the control standards required. Check the inventory of policies to see if your hazard is covered.

If you require further information or assistance, contact the University H&S Team.

4.3 Hazard monitoring

Where a significant hazard is managed using minimisation, it is a mandatory requirement to monitor the employees' exposure to the hazard (in addition to monitoring the employees' health in relation to the exposure). The reason for monitoring is to ensure that the control measure implemented remains effective.

Surveys that may be necessary within the University environment are:

  • Noise levels
  • Lighting
  • Air contaminants
  • Chemicals
  • Radiation
  • Air quality
  • Biohazards
  • Air Temperature
  • Asbestos
  • Vibration

If any of these hazards are applicable to your department, contact the Health and Safety Team to arrange the necessary monitoring.

4.4 Health Hazards

Where a minimisation approach (section 10 HSE Act) is used to manage a significant hazard at work, employers are required to monitor employees' health in relation to exposure to the hazard (with the employees informed consent). Although the employer must provide health monitoring where required by law, the principles of privacy, human rights and discrimination apply. In extreme cases the OSH Departmental Medical Practitioner has the power to suspend employees from work to protect them from further exposure to a significant hazard.

The University Occupational Health Nurse provides noise monitoring and lung function monitoring. If the hazard register indicates these controls in relation to hazards (e.g.: high noise levels, handling of laboratory animals) then you should be having the required health monitoring. Contact your DHSO or OHN (See staff and contacts – link).

4.5 Personal Protective Equipment

Personal protective equipment (PPE) should only be used to minimise exposure to a hazard as a last resort, and only where other methods of control are not practicable. PPE can also be used to increase the protection in addition to other methods. It is the employers' responsibility to provide adequate PPE. PPE needs to fit the individuals concerned correctly and be available for use at all times. Employees should know where to obtain the equipment and how to request replacements. See the Provision and Use of Personal Protective Equipment policy. Examples of PPE are:

  • Safety Glasses
  • Hearing Protection
  • Safety footwear
  • Head Protection

In addition to the provision of PPE, it must be maintained in good working order and worn. Training sessions may be required and a programme to ensure that PPE is worn when required.