Do you ever feel your risk assessment isn't covering all bases?
You want to keep your people protected, but despite your best efforts the company accident rates remain the same?
While a lot of factors impact occupational injury rates, a great risk assessment lays the foundation for a solid Health and Safety policy. Get this right, and it'll make keeping your people safe easier.
In this article, you'll discover how to carry out an amazing risk assessment which helps reduce workplace accidents.
What Is A Risk Assessment?
Let's start with the basics.
As part of managing the health and safety of your organisation, you need to control the risks in your workplace. To achieve this, you must carry out a risk assessment to record what might cause people harm and what steps you can take to prevent that harm.
This is a legal requirement and the penalties for failing to carry out a risk assessment can be severe.
Fortunately, the risk assessment process doesn't have to be complicated. Follow our steps below and you'll have it sorted in no time!
1. Identify Hazards
A good start to any great risk assessment is to walk around your workplace and note down any hazards.
"A hazard is anything that may cause harm, such as chemicals, electricity, working from ladders, an open drawer, etc."
- The Health and Safety Executive (HSE), Controlling Risks
Here are some tips to help you identify hazards:
- Check manufacturers' instructions and data sheets - these will usually outline any hazards a product may have and how best to reduce the risks
- Look back at your accident records - by identifying how previous accidents happened, you can put procedures in place to prevent them occurring again
- Note any non-routine operations - maintenance or changes in production processes can create new hazards
- Consider long-term hazards to health - a few examples are high noise levels or exposure to harmful substances, such as silica dust or asbestos
Additionally, the most common categories for hazards are:
- Physical - manual handling and lifting, slips and trips, machinery, computer equipment etc.
- Mental - long hours, unreasonable workload, workplace bullying, etc.
- Chemical - cleaning fluids, aerosols, etc.
- Biological - this category mainly applies to those working in healthcare and includes hazards such as infectious diseases. However, it's important for all workplaces to consider hygiene and how to reduce the risk of illnesses spreading from worker to worker
2. Think: Who Might Be Harmed?
It's not just your full-time and part-time employees who need consideration. Visitors, contractors or members of the public may also be harmed by hazards in your workplace. As such, employers need to review procedures in all locations where their staff carry out work.
We recommend talking to your employees about potential hazards. Workers often notice things that aren't obvious to you and may even have ideas on how to reduce risks.
According to HSE, you should also remember:
- Some workers will have specific requirements, such as: new, young or migrant workers, new or expectant mothers, people with disabilities, temporary workers, night-workers, contractors, homeworkers and lone workers
- To consider those who aren't in the workplace at all times e.g. visitors, contractors, maintenance workers
- How members of the public could be harmed by your work activities
- To talk to other businesses if you share a workplace and consider how your work affects them and vice versa
3. Evaluate Risks
Now you've identified the hazards, it's time to decide how likely it is that harm will occur. This is known as the level of risk.
"Risk is the chance, high or low, that somebody could be harmed by these and other hazards, together with an indication of how serious the harm could be."
- The Health and Safety Executive (HSE), Controlling Risks
By determining how likely it is that each hazard could cause harm, you'll be able to decide whether you should reduce the level of risk. You should aim to control risks wherever reasonably practicable. However, you won't need to take action if it would be hugely disproportionate to the level of risk.
As such, your risk assessment only needs to include what you can reasonably be expected to know - you aren't expected to anticipate unforeseeable risks!
Practical actions you could take include:
- Preventing access to hazards
- Organising work to reduce exposure to hazards
- Provide Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) - (you can read our Ultimate PPE Guide to get clued up)
- Ensure there are first aid and washing facilities
- Involve and consult with your employees, so you can be sure any proposed controls won't introduce new hazards
4. Record Your Findings
If you have five or more staff, you're required by law to record your risk assessment in writing. This should include details of hazards and actions taken to reduce or eliminate risk.
Your risk assessment doesn't need to be a complicated document. However, it must be sufficient and demonstrate that:
- A thorough check was carried out
- You considered who could be harmed/affected
- You took action against all obvious hazards, taking into account the level of risk and number of people involved
- Remaining risks are low and precautions are reasonable
- You involved your employees in the process
5. Review Your Risk Assessment
Workplaces are dynamic environments. As such, you need to regularly review your risk assessment to ensure it's up-to-date and relevant.
- Have there been any significant changes e.g. new equipment, substances or procedures?
- Could you reduce risks any further?
- Have any of your employees spotted a new hazard?
- Have you learnt anything new from recent accidents or near misses?
USE OUR FREE RISK ASSESSMENT TEMPLATE
Formatting your risk assessment to make sure it's clear and concise can be a hassle.
Instead of wasting your time trying to create tables or fiddle with font sizes, why not just download our free risk assessment template?