5 Steps to a Risk Assessment

Posted on April 29, 2013

1. Identify the hazards

Identifying the hazards within your workplace is the first step that you should take. When you are working in the same place, day in, day out, you can overlook many of the hazards, here are a few tips to help you identify the hazards:

- Walking around the workplace looking for potential hazards that could harm your employees.

- The people who are most likely to bump into many of the hazards are your employees. Ask the staff about any health and safety risks that they know of.

- Check the manufacturers' instructions or data sheets for chemicals and equipment. These can help in identifying any hazards and highlighting them.

-Your accident log book will help you with finding the hazards. Any repetitive accidents and illnesses will help identify the less obvious hazards.

- Remember to think about the long-term risks. These could potentially be the most damaging to someone’s health.

2. Think about who could be harmed and how

When you have identified the hazards within the workplace, you need to think about who could be harmed. This will help when you come to deciding which is the best way of managing the risk. But this does not mean writing down everyone by name, but grouping people together e.g. people who work in a warehouse, visitors, office staff.

Some workers may have unique requirements, e.g. new and young workers, migrant workers, new or expectant mothers and people with disabilities. Some extra thought and effort will be needed for some hazards within the workplace if you do have anyone who is under these categories.

What about those people who are not in your workplace all the time? Cleaners, visitors, contractors and maintenance workers will always be in and out within a working week. You need to think about whether the people who come into the workplace need a brief talk on the health and safety risks for example, protective equipment if the workplace is a construction site.

It's not just inside the workplace that hazards can occur. The public are at risk too if the hazards are not being controlled. Delivery lorries, building sites etc. can all provide a risk to any member of public.

If your workplace is being shared with other companies, you will need to think about how your work may affect others. Ask a member of the other company to sit down with you and talk about any risks that you may have and how everyone on both teams can stay safe.

Cannot think of any more? Ask your staff if they an think of anyone else.

3. Evaluating the risks

Now you have identified the hazards, what are you going to do about them? The law requires you to do everything 'reasonably practicable' to protect people from harm.

First, look at what you're already doing. What controls do you have already in place and how well are they working? If there is more that can be done to prevent anyone being harmed by the risks then they need to be applied to the existing controls.

When asking yourself whether more can be done, consider whether you can remove the hazard altogether and if not, how can you control the risks so that harm is unlikely.

When controlling the risks, think about these principles in this order if possible:

- Try a less hazardous option e.g. use a less hazardous chemical
- Prevent access to the hazard or a hazardous area
- Plan the work to reduce exposure to the hazard for example, put barrier between pedestrians and traffic
- In an area such as a building site, personal protective equipment (PPE) should always be provided to anyone on the site
- First aid, washing facilities and changing rooms should be provided to all workers

Improving health and safety within the workplace does not need much cost but if it does, it will help prevent any injuries. However, if you fail to take simple precautions, it will end up being an expensive cost if an accident does happen.

4. Record any findings and implement them

Putting the results of your risk assessment into practice will make a difference when looking after people and your business. Sharing the results with your staff as well as writing them down will encourage you to keep on top of analysing the risk.

Keep it simple when you write down your results for example:

Tripping over rubbish - bins provided - staff instructed - weekly housekeeping checks. Or

Fume from welding - local exhaust ventilation used and regularly checked.

The logging of the results doesn't have to be perfect as long as you have and understand the following things:

- A proper check was made

- You have asked who might be affected

- You have dealt with all the obvious hazards and have taken into account the number of people who could be involved

- The precautions that you have put into place a reasonable and the risk is as low as possible

- Your have involved your staff if the process

If you have many improvements to make, big or small, it is safer no to do everything at once. Plan out what needs improving first i.e. the higher risks.

- A few cheap or easy improvements that can be done quickly, perhaps as a temporary solution until more reliable controls can be put into place

- Long-term solutions to those risks most likely to cause accidents or ill health

- Long-term solutions to those risks with the worst potential consequences

- Arrangements for training employees on the main risks that remain and how they are to be controlled

- Regular checks to make sure that the control measures stay in place

- Clear responsibilities - who will lead on what action and by when

5. Review and update your risk assessment

Most businesses will bring in new equipment, substances and procedures that could lead to new hazards, therefore a review will be needed. Reviewing your risk assessment will mean you need to think about the changes within the workplace and your risk assessment should stay up-to-date.

- Are improvements still in process?
- Have your employees spotted any additional risks?
- Have you learnt anything from accidents?

When you are working or running a business it is easy to forget about reviewing your risk assessment. One way you will remember is if someone has an accident and it is too late. Over the year, if there has been any significant change, do no wait something to go wrong, check your risk assessment and update it. Put reminders in your calender to review your risk assessment and appoint somebody to help or back up the risk assessment.

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Posted in Health and Safety