Why should every business conduct a risk assessment? How can I conduct a risk assessment? And what are the benefits to conducting a risk assessment? These are some very important questions that this blog will answer.
Why should we conduct a risk assessment?
- Risk assessments are a legal requirement under the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations.
- They allow you to identify any and all significant hazards and risks in your workplace. You can’t control or eliminate a risk if you don’t know it exists.
- They detail the potential risks in your workplace and how to eliminate, control or mitigate them. By following the recommendations made here you can ultimately reduce the risk of harm to you, your employees, or your visitors.
- Risk assessments are also legally required for specific cases including when working with: Fire, Display and Screen Equipment (DSE), manual handling, hazardous substances and noise. They are also required for work involving specific groups of people such as: New and expectant mothers, disabled persons, young persons, and lone workers.
The Risk Assessment Process
The risk assessment process might feel daunting and scary, considering how important it is for keeping you and your people safe. However, it doesn’t have to be! The HSE outlines the following 5-step process you should follow when carrying out a risk assessment:
Step 1: Finding the hazards and risks
Many risks can often be found in the day-to-day tasks being carried out. Perhaps there are ways to make the tasks safer? Consider all of the following:
- The materials or items you are working with
- The method by which you’re carrying out the work
- The hazards that could arise while you carry out this work
- The potential hazards that could occur with non-routine operations like maintenance and cleaning
- The long-term health hazards that could occur due to the work, such as hazards connected to exposure to noise or vibration
Tools you can use to find these risks or hazards are by conducting a site inspection (you can read all about site inspections and why they are important in our blog here), involving the workforce (see our blog on establishing a positive H&S culture), or seeking the advice of an industry or safety expert, such as PHSS.
Step 2: Deciding who might be harmed and how
Now that the hazards have been identified, the next step is to decide who might be harmed and how this could happen.
- You’ll need to consider how each of your members of staff could be hurt and how serious the injury could be.
- Consider what controls have been put in place already and what additional controls you might be able to put in place to make each position safer.
- You will also have to consider who needs to carry out the safety actions and whether the action has a deadline.
- Remember to consider the hazards and risks for non-permanent positions, such as cleaners or visitors, as well.
Step 3: Control the risks
In step 3, we should implement controls and actions to deal with the risks and hazards we have identified.
- This is when we decide what precautions should be taken for each identified risk.
- According to the Hierarchy of Control (see our blog on this for a refresher), the best place to start is always to try to eliminate the risk if you can. However, if that’s not a possibility for your specific hazard and situation, think about how you might be able to reduce, isolate or control the risk.
- Begin by considering which risks are most likely to occur, and which would result in the most harm. This will give you an idea of what you should prioritise.
Step 4: Record and Implement your Findings
According to the HSE, if you employ more than 5 people, you must record any significant findings that arise from your risk assessment.
- Include the hazards, who might be harmed and how, and what controls and actions you will take to reduce the risk.
- Even if you do not have 5 people employed in your workplace, it is beneficial to record this information. Recording it will allow you to ensure the proper checks have been made, will make sharing with your employees more simple, and will allow you to review the process when things change.
- You should then create an action plan that shows which steps you need to take to control the identified risks. Make sure to include a few easy and cheap improvements along with some long-term solutions, and training arrangements and outline responsibilities and deadlines clearly.
Step 5: Review and Update the risk assessment
Step 5 is to review and update your risk assessment according to what you found. This is to ensure there are no new hazards that have been introduced to your workplace.
- The controls you have implemented also need to be reviewed in the risk assessment as they might have caused new risks to come into play.
- You should also check if the controls are as effective as they should be. Reviewing and updating your risk assessment must be done formally, and on an annual basis.
Your review should consider the following:
- Any changes to substances, equipment or procedures
- Any problems reported by the workforce
- Lessons learned from accidents and near misses.
Things to note…
There are a few things you should bear in mind when conducting a risk assessment. Remember that…
- The risk assessment should be carried out by someone experienced and competent who has the skills required to correctly identify risks, and who can also create and implement an action plan.
- According to the law, your assessment must be “suitable and sufficient”. Here is how you can make sure that it is:
- A proper check has been made
- You have considered everyone who might be affected
- You have addressed any significant hazards
- You have implemented reasonable controls
- You involved the workforce in the process
The aim of a risk assessment is keep people safe, and your approach towards it should always be sensible. The rules and best practises exist not to stifle learning or innovation, but to prevent harm to your employees. Throughout the risk assessment, you must ensure that:
- Workers and the public are properly protected
- You have enabled learning and development of yourself and your team
- Examples of good industry practice have been used
- Your risk assessment and controls are proportionate to the risk faced by your organisation
By following the steps in this blog, your risk assessment will be legally sound and follow best practices. If you are still unsure, don’t hesitate to contact PHSS as we are here to help!