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                        16 min read

                        The ultimate guide to machinery risk assessments

                        The ultimate guide to machinery risk assessments

                        Welcome to Ideagen Plant Assessor’s ultimate guide to machinery risk assessments! In today's fast-paced workplace environments, the proper assessment and management of machinery risks are of paramount importance. This comprehensive guide is designed to equip you with the knowledge and understanding needed to conduct effective machinery risk assessments. Whether you are a safety professional, machinery operator or machinery owner, this guide will provide you with essential insights for conducting machinery risk assessments.

                        Throughout this guide, we delve into the key concepts of machinery risk assessments, exploring the various types of assessments, who should conduct them, when to complete one and the steps involved. We will also examine the four steps of the risk assessment process; identifying, assessing, controlling and monitoring.

                        Drawing on industry best practices and regulatory guidelines, this guide will empower you to create a safer working environment by providing you with tips and tricks on what to do, and what to avoid. By understanding and applying the principles outlined here, you will be better equipped to protect the wellbeing of your workers, prevent machinery incidents, and promote a culture of safety within your organisation.

                        So, scroll through the entire guide or simply jump to the sections relevant to you with the table of contents below. We’re here to help you become a machinery risk assessment expert, and show you why Ideagen Plant Assessor is the tool to do that.


                        In this article:

                        What is a machinery risk assessment?

                        Types of machinery risk assessments

                        Who should complete a machinery risk assessment?

                        When should a machinery risk assessment be completed?

                        Why should a machinery risk assessment be conducted?

                        The risk assessment process

                        How to identify hazards on machinery

                        How to rate the risks of machinery hazards

                        How to implement control measures

                        Methods of completing a risk assessment

                        Best practice for completing a machinery risk assessment

                        What makes a good assessor?

                        Common risk assessment mistakes

                        Conduct digital risk assessments with Ideagen Plant Assessor

                        How to complete an Ideagen Plant Assessor risk assessment

                        Need more information about Ideagen Plant Assessor's risk assessments?

                        A large excavator operating on a work site

                        What is a machinery risk assessment?

                        A machinery risk assessment is an evaluation of the potential hazards associated with the use of a particular machine. The purpose of a machinery risk assessment is to identify hazards that could impact the safety of the machine or the people who work with it or in its vicinity. Part of completing a machinery risk assessment is implementing controls to reduce the risk they pose.


                        Types of machinery risk assessments

                        There are many different types of machinery risk assessments. Selecting the correct type of risk assessment for your machine is crucial as it sets the foundation for the assessment process and determines the specific goals and outcomes to be achieved. Here are some of the types of machinery risk assessments that we offer at Ideagen Plant Assessor.

                        Plant in use

                        The purpose of a plant in use assessment is to evaluate the risks associated with the operation, maintenance, and use of machinery on site. The assessment aims to identify hazards, assess risks, and develop control measures to ensure the safe operation of the machinery within the site.


                        Evaluating the risks associated with renting or leasing machinery to customers is the purpose of a hire risk assessment. It is designed to assess the machinery's condition, safety features, and potential hazards before it is made available for hire. This helps ensure the machine meets the necessary safety standards, and can be used safely by those renting it.


                        A machinery risk assessment conducted for the purpose of sale involves evaluating the machine’s safety and compliance with applicable regulations and standards. The assessment aims to identify any hazards, potential risks, or safety concerns related to the machine being sold. This information helps the seller meet compliance obligations and informs the buyer of potential hazards that may arise as a result of using the machinery. There is a great range of legislation applicable to the safe supply of machinery, which varies from state to state. For further information, see our guide to safety legislation and obligations for machinery owners and suppliers.


                        Conducting a machinery risk assessment for rail purposes involves assessing the risks associated with machinery used in the railway industry. This includes machinery used for maintenance, construction, or operation of railway infrastructure, locomotives, rolling stock, signaling systems, or any other equipment specific to the rail sector. The purpose is to identify potential hazards, evaluate risks, and implement appropriate risk control measures to ensure the safe and reliable functioning of machinery within the rail environment. This assessment helps safeguard the wellbeing of railway personnel, passengers, and the integrity of rail operations while complying with railway safety regulations and standards.


                        In the mining industry, machinery risk assessments are specifically focused on the unique risks associated with mining operations. The purpose is to identify potential hazards and assess the risks associated with mining machinery, such as heavy equipment used in excavation, transportation, or processing activities. The assessment helps develop risk control measures and safety protocols tailored to the mining environment to ensure the safety of workers and compliance with state and federal mining regulations.

                        A man wearing PPE conducting a digital risk assessment on a heavy machine in the background


                        Who should complete a machinery risk assessment?

                        The simple answer to this question is anyone who works with machinery. If you own or work with a piece of machinery, you should complete a risk assessment on it. Here at Ideagen Plant Assessor, we recommend that any assessor of machinery must have comprehensive knowledge of the machine they are inspecting.

                        However, the delegation of responsibility for completing a machinery risk assessment can vary from company to company. For example, if you are a sole trader, you would be solely responsible for the completion of risk assessments on your machinery. Within large companies, the task of completing risk assessments may be the responsibility of a senior project engineer, or a safety manager. 

                        Despite this, it is important to remember that safety of machinery is everyone’s responsibility, and any hazards you may spot on a piece of equipment should be reported and controlled, regardless of whether it is your job to complete risk assessments.


                        When should a machinery risk assessment be conducted?

                        There are few hard and fast rules to follow when determining when to conduct a risk assessment on your machines. This is mostly because the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 simply states that duty holders must ensure that plant within the workplace does not risk the health and safety of their workers. Further to this, the Work Health and Safety Regulations states that risk assessments must be completed when there has been an incident, modification to the machine or the environment changes.

                        However, leading industry practice suggests machinery risk assessments should be conducted every 12 months. Based on this, Ideagen Plant Assessor has developed its own guide for how often machinery should have a risk assessment conducted on it.

                        • Every 12 months for very high risk machines such as self propelled earthmoving machines. An example of this type of machine is a backhoe, or an excavator.
                        • Every 18 months for high risk machines such as complex, non self propelled machines. A vehicle fitted with spot sprayer is one of the most common machines assessed at an 18 month interval, as Ideagen Plant Assessor normally assesses machines more or less frequently. A seed tender is another example of a machine assessed every 18 months. 
                        • Every 24 months for medium risk machines such as non complex, self propelled machines, for example, a tipper truck or a passenger vehicle
                        • Every 36 months for non complex, non self propelled machines such as a tipping trailer.
                        • Every 60 months for workshop equipment and power tools like chainsaws and lawn edgers.

                        It is important to note that risk assessments should also be conducted on machinery on other occasions including when a machine is hired out to a customer, sold to a new owner, and when it’s modified.

                        To find out more about when to conduct a risk assessment on your fleet of machinery, take a look at our article How often do I need to conduct a risk assessment on machinery?

                        Close up of a hydraulic fluid safety label on a machine


                        Why should a machinery risk assessment be conducted?

                        There are a number of reasons why a machinery risk assessment should be carried out. These include:

                        Identifying, managing and controlling risks

                        Completing a machinery risk assessment is one of the main ways to identify, manage and control hazards. A risk assessment will prompt you to search for any hazards on a machine, determine the risk they pose to your people, and manage them with control measures.

                        Keeping people safe

                        By identifying, managing and controlling hazards through the completion of a risk assessment, you’re helping to keep your people safe. Once the risk assessment process is complete, your people are at a reduced risk of being seriously injured, and are more likely to return home safely to their families and friends after each day on the job.

                        Meeting obligations

                        Every person conducting a business or undertaking (PCBU) in Australia must meet their obligations in relation to machinery safety under the various pieces of legislation, regulations, standards and codes of practice. Some of these requirements include, but are not limited to, the Work Health and Safety Act 2011, Work Health and Safety Regulations 2017 and the model codes of practice. Completing a risk assessment on your machine or equipment can help to ensure you remain compliant with the obligations outlined by these requirements.

                        Reducing the risk of legal and financial liabilities

                        By meeting your machinery safety and compliance obligations in the legislation, regulations, standards and codes of practice, you can help reduce the liability of yourself and your business being prosecuted. Breaching these requirements can result in a regulator investigation, and could even see you charged and convicted for your offences. Regularly assessing your fleet of machinery will help to ensure you identify any hazards and risks early, and allow you to resolve them so you remain compliant, reducing the risk of prosecution.

                        Peace of mind

                        When you know you’ve thoroughly completed your risk assessments, you will also know you have met your obligations, you’re keeping your people safe and you’re protecting yourself from prosecution. This will provide you with peace of mind, as you know that the chance of an incident involving your machinery on site is reduced, and the likelihood of prosecution has also declined.

                        Close up of a large machine on a work site


                        The risk assessment process

                        The risk assessment process is made up of four steps. These steps are:

                        • Identify the hazards.
                        • Apply a risk rating for each hazard.
                        • Assess the risk.
                        • Implement controls.
                        • Monitor controls.

                        How to identify hazards on machinery

                        If you possess a strong knowledge of machinery and are aware of the possible hazards that can arise on a machine, identifying them can be a relatively easy step in the process of conducting a machinery risk assessment. However, if you’re new to the industry, it can be a little more difficult knowing where to start. So, here are some common ways to identify hazards on machinery.

                        Inspect the machine

                        Conducting regular inspections, and establishing an inspection schedule or routine is a great way to ensure you keep on top of these inspections, and ultimately prevent hazards from becoming critical non-compliances.

                        Look for each type of hazard

                        If you’re not familiar with the different types of hazards, you might require some guidance. The types of hazards applicable to machinery and mechanical devices include:

                        • Entanglement - caused when an object is drawn into a machine and becomes trapped. 
                        • Crushing - caused when an object moves towards a stationary object or two objects move towards each other.
                        • Cutting - caused by sharp objects such as blades or knives.
                        • Stabbing or puncturing - caused by sharp objects such as tines, corners or points impaling a person.
                        • Shearing - caused when an object moves past a stationary object or two objects move past each other.
                        • Striking - caused by a moving object hitting another object that is either stationary or moving at a slower pace.
                        • Asphyxiation - caused when a person is deprived of oxygen.
                        • High pressure fluid - caused when high pressure fluid is injected under the skin.
                        • Electrical - caused by electrical currents flowing through the body.
                        • Explosion - caused by the outward release of energy, usually involving high temperatures and/or high pressure gas.
                        • Slipping - caused when a person falls as a result of stepping on an unstable surface.
                        • Tripping - caused when a person falls over an object that is either stationary or moving at a slower pace.
                        • Falling - caused when a person descends from a height in an uncontrolled manner.
                        • Ergonomic - caused when a person experiences physical discomfort while operating the machine.
                        • Noise - caused by exposure to sounds over 120 decibels, or exposure to sounds above 70 decibels over an extended period of time.
                        • Combination - caused by multiple of the above hazards.
                        Review associated documentation

                        Documentation that is created for the machine and its operation can provide valuable information about the hazards that can arise and how to identify them. Consider checking out the following information relating to each machine for guidance.

                        • Original equipment manufacturer’s (OEM’s) manual.
                        • Safe operating procedures (SOPs).
                        • Servicing and maintenance records.
                        • Incident reports.
                        • Previous risk assessment reports.
                        • Other relevant documentation, such as the plant item registration.
                        Monitor for safety alerts

                        Often machinery manufacturers or regulatory bodies will release advice about hazards relevant to particular machine types or components. These publications can not only raise awareness about the potential for these hazards to arise, but they can also help you to identify, and monitor for them as part of routine machinery inspections.


                        How to rate the risks of machinery hazards

                        Once hazards have been identified, the next step in the machinery risk assessment process is rating hazards. This can be conducted using a risk matrix, or a likelihood/consequence matrix. The matrix is a grid used to visually understand the level of risk a hazard poses. Each component of the grid is numbered, colour-coded and is listed as low, medium, high, or critical. Using the grid, an assessor can determine the likelihood of the risk and the consequences involved if an incident occurred, and therefore, a hazard’s risk rating. To find out more about the risk matrix, head to our article How to read a risk matrix used in a risk analysis.

                        Close up of a person wearing a hi-vis vest completing a paper risk assessment while standing close to a truck


                        How to implement control measures

                        Implementing controls is the next step in the process of conducting a machinery risk assessment. This stage is completed using the hierarchy of control, as its application is a mandatory requirement for duty holders in all Australian safety jurisdictions. The hierarchy has five components, elimination, substitution, engineering controls, administrative controls and personal protective equipment (PPE), which are used to help determine the most effective control measure for reducing risk. For example, an assessor should first determine whether a hazard can be controlled through elimination and substitution, before considering engineering controls, administrative controls or providing workers with PPE. For more information about the hierarchy of controls and how to use it, head to our article Hierarchy of control explained.


                        Methods of completing a machinery risk assessment

                        There are many different methods for completing a risk assessment on machinery. These methods all have their pros and cons. See below for a list of the different methods for completing risk assessments, as well as the benefits and detractors for each.


                        Paper-based risk assessments are commonly used for assessing machinery. They are easy to carry around a machine and markup with a pen as you complete your inspection, but they can be time consuming to complete. Storage and accessibility of paper-based risk assessments can also be inconvenient, as they need to be filed away in filing cabinets; they are difficult to search through when you want to refer back to the assessment. Time delays may also be experienced when completing paper risk assessments, analysing risks, determining control measures and sharing the results with key stakeholders.


                        Spreadsheets are another common method used for completing machinery risk assessments. Spreadsheet-based risk assessments are great for digitally storing all your fleet’s assessments, however, unless they are stored on the cloud, they can be at risk of being lost or deleted. They can also be quite confusing to use and create unless you are experienced with the spreadsheet software platform used by your company.


                        Many risk assessments come in the form of a checklist that can be ticked or crossed off as the machine is inspected for hazards. While they are very simple and efficient to complete, checklists are often generic, and don’t consider the hazards and risks unique to each piece of machinery and equipment.

                        Digital templates

                        Digital templates in the form of documents and spreadsheets can be accessed from various websites. While they are often free or low cost and easy to use, like paper-based risk assessments, they may not be specific to your machines, the environment they work in, or the purpose they are being used for. Digital templates also require cloud storage rather than desktop or hard drive storage on your computer if you want to ensure your risk assessments are effectively stored and easily accessible.

                        Reference material from government safety organisations

                        Many government safety organisations and regulatory bodies provide great information and resources to help you build your own risk assessments, or download pre-made assessments based on requirements such as legislation, regulations, standards and codes of practice. However, like digital templates, they can be generic and should be treated as reference material only, to help you build more specific risk assessments tailored to your fleet.

                        Advanced technology

                        As the name suggests, advanced technology uses technologies like artificial intelligence (AI) and the internet of things (IoT) to assist you with the risk assessment of machines. Advanced technology platforms that allow you to complete machinery risk assessments are often able to determine the hazards and risks unique to your machine and its usages and help you determine the most effective control measures to implement in order to control the risk. However, advanced technology platforms can come at a financial cost to your business.

                        Close up of a heavy machines tyres as it operates on a work site



                        Best practice for completing a machinery risk assessment

                        Like anything, there are best practices for completing a machinery risk assessment. These are outlined below, and are based on the recommendations by experts in machinery safety and compliance.


                        It’s important to be honest when conducting a machinery risk assessment. It can be frustrating when you discover a hazard on your machine. It could incur financial cost to the business, and may even result in downtime for the machine, costing you time on the job. While the process of rectifying a hazard may be annoying, it’s not worth the cost of sweeping it under the rug and potentially causing harm to yourself or others. Therefore, if you identify a hazard on your machine, be honest about it and report it in your risk assessment.


                        Being consistent is vital when it comes to the rating of risks in a machinery risk assessment. This stage requires consistency to ensure risks with a similar likelihood and consequence are rated the same way each time the same hazard is identified. This ensures operators, owners and others can all fully understand the level of risk posed by each hazard.

                        Prioritising control of risks based on rating

                        Once the risks are rated, it’s critical that those hazards with a higher risk rating are controlled first. Prioritising the control of more dangerous hazards over those that pose less of a risk is best practice for ensuring the health and safety of those who work with and around the machine.

                        Standing down non-compliant machines

                        If your risk assessment tells you that a hazard is catastrophic or has made the machine non-compliant, it’s important to stand down the machine. Tagout procedures must be initiated when the machine’s hazard poses a major risk to operators and others in the vicinity. If you’d like to learn more about best practice for completing risk assessments and discover the 5 golden rules for conducting a Ideagen Plant Assessor risk assessment, head to our article What you need to know about conducting risk assessments.

                        What makes a good assessor?

                        Anyone has the ability to complete risk assessments on machinery and equipment however, people that possess the following often make for better assessors than others:

                        Attention to detail

                        Having great attention to detail can be beneficial for an assessor, as it can help them in the identification of hazards. A detailed person may spot hazards on machinery that others don’t, or may remember to check areas that are often forgotten about or overlooked by a less attentive assessor.


                        The ability to remain objective during a machinery risk assessment is desirable, as it can help ensure your risk assessments remain consistent. An objective assessor will understand the exact level of risk each hazard poses, without over exaggerating it, or understating it.

                        Understanding of requirements

                        Having a thorough understanding of the legislation, regulations, standards and codes of practice that apply to machinery compliance and safety is a great trait for a machinery risk assessor. This knowledge is helpful when risk assessing machinery, because when a hazard is identified, the assessor may already know how to make the machine compliant once again.

                        Machinery knowledge

                        Knowledge of machinery is one of the most important traits of a good assessor. If you understand machinery, you also likely have an understanding of what can go wrong and how hazards can arise on machines. This will provide you with an invaluable advantage when it comes to identifying hazards and rating the risks on machinery during the risk assessment process.

                        Multiple heavy machines parked up on a worksite



                        Common risk assessment mistakes

                        There are plenty of mistakes you can make when completing a risk assessment, so we’ve listed the most common ones for you.

                        Not properly identifying hazards

                        Sometimes, hazards can be missed in the process of risk assessing machinery. Knowing what hazards to look for can come with experience, so if you are unsure whether something poses a risk, or what type of risk a hazard poses, make sure you ask for guidance from an experienced assessor.

                        Not understanding the requirements

                        Not having a thorough understanding of the requirements is a disadvantage when it comes to completing a risk assessment. If you do not know what the legislation, regulations, standards and codes of practice require of your machinery in order to be safe and compliant, you may have a poorer understanding of how to comply.

                        Inadequate risk ratings

                        Some assessors like to over-exaggerate the risks that a hazard poses, while others may understate the risk. The subjectivity of risk ratings across assessments can lead to risks being inadequately rated, and therefore, the level of risk being miscommunicated to machinery operators and others in its vicinity. The best way to avoid this common mistake is to ensure an experienced and objective assessor is tasked with completing machinery risk assessments, or use a system such as Ideagen Plant Assessor, which removes subjectivity entirely.

                        Not communicating the results

                        It’s an easy mistake to make, thinking that once the machinery risk assessment process is complete, it can be stored away and never mentioned or thought about again. But that shouldn’t be the case. It’s very important to inform your operators, the wider business and your colleagues of the results of the risk assessment, especially if a hazard was identified. This communication can come in the form of a simple email to relevant staff and stakeholders, informing them of the risk assessment results, the hazard or hazards that were identified, and how they have been controlled.

                        Operating unsafe machinery

                        If a machine is deemed unsafe following a risk assessment, it is critical to ensure that it is not operated. Machines should be stood down or tagged out until the hazard is controlled and it is once again safe to operate.

                        Not implementing correct controls

                        Selecting and implementing the most appropriate control measures is the best way to reduce the risks associated with machinery hazards. The easiest way to determine the most effective controls is by using the hierarchy of control. If incorrect or inappropriate controls are implemented, the hazard may still pose a significant risk to machinery operators and bystanders, resulting in preventable incidents.


                        Conduct digital risk assessments with Ideagen Plant Assessor

                        You can conduct simple, efficient and machine specific risk assessments with Ideagen Plant Assessor! Our software platform allows you to take the thought and effort out of the risk assessment process. Simply select your machine from a database of more than 110,000 makes and models of equipment, answer the yes or no questions and you’ll know in minutes whether your machine is safe and compliant. Ideagen Plant Assessor’s Machinery Compliance Engine (MCE) does all the hard work for you; identifying hazards on each unique machine based on legislative and regulatory requirements, rating the risks, and providing you with recommended control measures to implement. You can have confidence that your risk assessment process is thorough and consistent, hazard controls are relevant, and you’re compliant to the latest letter of legislation.

                        If you’d like to know more about how the MCE works, head to our article Simplify the complexity of machinery risk assessments.

                        A digger parked on a worksite surrounded by rocks and gravel



                        How to complete an Ideagen Plant Assessor machinery risk assessment

                        There are a few simple steps you can take to complete your Ideagen Plant Assessor machinery risk assessment.

                        Step 1:
                        Log in to Ideagen Plant Assessor

                        Head to the Ideagen Plant Assessor site and log in using your details. You will then be taken to your machines list.

                        Step 2: Start a digital risk assessment

                        Add a new machine or select an existing machine to start your risk assessment. Click ‘Create’ next to the machine to commence the assessment. 

                        Step 3: Machine details

                        Your machine details should already be inputted in this section. However, it is important to quickly check over the details to ensure they are correct.

                        Step 4: Assessment purpose

                        Drop down the Purpose menu and select how you will be using your machine. Ensure you select the correct purpose here as this will determine the scope and focus of the assessment.

                        Step 5: Machine specifications

                        The machine specifications page is usually pre-filled for you based on the machine you have selected, however, if you have additional information about your machine’s features, add it in on the right hand side.

                        Step 6: Machine extras

                        Select any extras that are fitted to the machine such as directional traffic arrows or buckets and other attachments.

                        Step 7: Assessment questions

                        Answer the detailed questions by selecting yes, no or not applicable (N/A). 

                        Step 8: Assessment notes

                        Make any additional notes relevant to the machine or the assessment, and add any additional documents or photos.

                        Step 9: Actions and reports

                        This is where you are provided with recommended corrective actions, due dates for completion, and completion status. These actions need to be implemented to ensure your machine meets relevant compliance requirements.

                        To find out more about completing a machinery risk assessment in Ideagen Plant Assessor, head to our in-depth article. 


                        Need more information on Ideagen Plant Assessor machinery risk assessments?

                        Our team members are experts in machinery compliance and risk assessments. They are only too happy to help you out with further information on Ideagen Plant Assessors machinery risk assessments, and all other things machinery compliance. Contact us today on 1300 728 852 or email



                        Identifying, assessing, controlling and reviewing  - Safe Work Australia

                        Managing risks - Safe Work Australia

                        Plant equipment guide - Safe Work Australia

                        Model Code of Practice: Managing risks of plant in the workplace - Safe Work Australia

                        Managing risk in the workplace - SafeWork NSW

                        Conduct Risk Assessments and Propose Controls - SafeWork NSW

                        Plant, machinery and equipment - SafeWork NSW

                        Plant, machinery and equipment - WorkSafe Victoria

                        Plant hazard checklist - WorkSafe Victoria

                        Machinery and equipment safety - an introduction: A handbook for workplaces - WorkSafe Victoria

                        How to conduct a risk assessment - WorkSafe Victoria

                        Managing risks - WorkSafe Queensland

                        Guide to machinery and equipment safety - WorkSafe Queensland

                        Plant - SafeWorkSA

                        Risk assessment template - NTWorkSafe

                        Plant and machinery - NTWorkSafe

                        Step 1 - Spot hazards - WorkSafe Western Australia

                        Step 2 - Assess risk - WorkSafe Western Australia

                        Step 3 - Manage risks - WorkSafe Western Australia

                        Step 4 - Monitor and review - WorkSafe Western Australia

                        4 steps to manage hazards and risk - WorkSafe Tasmania


                        Disclaimer: This information is intended to provide general information on the subject matter. This is not intended as legal or expert advice for your specific situation. You should seek professional advice before acting or relying on the content of this information.

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                        About the Author

                        Matt Ireland is the Technical Compliance Manager at Ideagen Plant Assessor. His expertise and knowledge of machinery compliance stems from a broad range of experience in the construction industry. He has also personally inspected and completed over 15,000 machinery risk assessments as a Field Officer in our Professional Services Team. Matt’s integral role involves taking technical documents such as Australian standards and legislation, interpreting them and translating them into the IP that makes the Ideagen Plant Assessor software unique. Read More.


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