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Health and Safety Risk Assessments

A Risk Assessment is systematic review of the work activities you undertake as part of your business, looking at what could cause harm, and deciding on suitable control measures to prevent accidents or serious incidents occurring. The Risk Assessment process should include the controls required to eliminate risk or suitable reduce the consequences.

So why conduct a risk assessment?

Organisations with 5 or more employees are required by UK law to have documented risk assessments for all significant hazards posed by the organisations work activities.

Organisations with less than 5 employees still have a duty to undertake risk assessments, however there is no legal requirement to record the findings, although it is strongly recommended that you do.

Risk Assessment is a fundamental requirement for any business. If you are unaware, or don't appreciate what risks are posed by your business activities, you are effectively putting yourself, your employees, your customers, members of the public and your organisation reputation in great danger. Employers and the self-employed should make suitable arrangements to reduce risk as much as is 'reasonably practicable'. 'Reasonably practicable' is a legal term that means employers must balance the cost of implementing risk control measures that they could take to reduce a risk against the degree of risk presented. When reckoning costs, the time, trouble and effort required should be included and not just the financial cost.

What should be covered by the health and safety risk assessment?

What a risk assessment will cover varies depending on what you do as a business, for example a predominantly office based business will have inherently different risks to that of a manufacturing company. However, the risk assessments must consider everyone who could be affected by whatever activities you undertake. As well as employees, this includes contractors, temporary workers, volunteers and members of the public. Some groups are also considered more vulnerable, such as young workers under the age 18 and new and expectant mothers, in these cases the legislation specifically asks employers to consider the additional risks posed to these groups and put in place additional controls where necessary.

The 5 Steps to Risk Assessment

The risk assessment process consists of a simply examination of what, in your work undertaking, could cause harm to people (includes employees, visitors, the public etc), so that you can weigh up whether or not you have taken enough precautions or should do more to prevent harm.

  • Risk Assessment Step 1 – Identify the hazards
    Walk around your workplace and look for what could reasonably be expected to cause harm. Concentrate only on significant hazards, which could result in serious harm or affect several people.
  • Risk Assessment Step 2 – Decide who might be harmed and how
    Consider people who may not be in the workplace all the time. Include members of the public, or people you share your workplace with, if there is a chance they could be hurt by your activities.
  • Risk Assessment Step 3 – Evaluate the risks and decide on practical precautions
    If there is a significant hazard that needs to be suitably controlled, decide whether the hazard can be got rid of altogether. If not, control the risks so that harm is unlikely. If your work is varied, or if you or your employees move from one site to another, select the reasonably foreseeable hazards and assess the risks from them.
  • Risk Assessment Step 4 – Record and implement your findings
    What further action is necessary to control the risk? Write down the more significant hazards, record your most important conclusions and most importantly inform your employees about your findings. Give priority to those risks, which affect large numbers of people and/or could result in serious harm.
  • Risk Assessment Step 5 – Review your assessment
    Changes to the workplace will lead to new hazards. Any significant changes should be added to the assessment to take account of the new hazard. Review your assessment regularly, but don't amend it for every trivial change.

Don't overcomplicate the process. In many organisations, the risks are well known and the necessary control measures are easy to apply.

At Health and Safety Mentor we have a variety of packages and services to assist your organisations in compiling suitable and sufficient health and safety risk assessments that are both cost effective and practical for your particular work environment. If you would like to enquire about our risk assessment services please ring and one of our health and safety consultants will be pleased to deal with your enquiry on 08444 933 062.