As part of managing the health and safety of your business and your employees, you must control risks in the workplace. To do this, you need to think about what might cause harm to people and decide whether you are taking reasonable steps to prevent that harm. This is known as risk assessment.
A risk assessment is not about creating huge amounts of paperwork, but rather about identifying sensible measures to control the risks in your workplace. You are probably already taking steps to protect your employees, but your risk assessment will help you decide whether you have covered all you need to. Think about how accidents and ill health could happen and concentrate on real risks – those that are most likely and which could cause the most harm.
Identify the hazards
One of the most important aspects of your risk assessment is accurately identifying the potential hazards in your workplace. A good starting point is to walk around your workplace and think about any hazards. Identify what is it about the activities, processes or substances used that could injure your employees or harm their health?
Identify who might be harmed
Think how employees might be harmed. Ask your employees what they think the hazards are, as they may notice things that are not obvious to you and may have some good ideas on how to control the risks. Think about people who might not be in the workplace all the time, such as visitors, contractors and maintenance workers. Take members of the public into account if they could be harmed by your work activities.
Evaluate the risks
Having identified the hazards, you have to decide how likely it is that harm will occur. Risk is a part of everyday life and you are not expected to eliminate all risks. What you must do is make sure you know about the main risks and the things you need to do to manage them responsibly. You need to do everything ‘reasonably practicable’ to protect people from harm. This means balancing the level of risk against the measures needed to control the real risk in terms of money, time or trouble. However, you do not need to take action if it would be grossly disproportionate to the level of risk. Improving health and safety does not cost a lot but failure to take simple precautions Could cost you a great deal if an accident occurs.
Record your significant findings
Make a record of your significant findings – the hazards, how people might be harmed by them and what you have in place to control the risks. If your risk assessment identifies a number of hazards, you need to put them in order of importance and address the most serious risks first. Identify long-term solutions for the risks with the biggest consequences, as well as those risks most likely to cause accidents or ill health.
Review your risk assessment
Few workplaces stay the same, you will bring in new equipment, substances and procedures that could lead to new hazards. It makes sense to review what you are doing regularly, look at your risk assessment again and ask yourself: Have there been any significant changes? Are there improvements you still need to make? Have your workers spotted a problem? Have you learnt anything from accidents or near misses? Make sure your risk assessment stays up to date.
This article is written by Paul Sumner, DMCC Senior HSE Manager; Email: